Being the only son of K. Karunakaran is not easy; K. Muraleedharan will admit that. His father was a towering personality in the Indian National Congress and arguably Kerala’s most successful chief minister. So it is natural that the father casts a long shadow over the son’s political career.
Muraleedharan, 63, doesn’t measure up to his father’s success. But he’s not averse to charting his path. He doesn’t even blink when crossing political divides if it works to his advantage. In short, he’s a true blue politician.
At one point, he formed the Democratic Indira Congress and allied with the CPM-led Left Democratic Front with a smattering of success. Muraleedharan later joined Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party before returning to the Indian National Congress, where he’s stayed since 2011.
Despite the prickly relationship with Congress, Muraleedharan is not afraid of airing his opinion even when it doesn’t sit well with the party or the party officials. It has got him into trouble. Not a trait that’s associated with politicians, who are adept at masking inconvenient truths. But Muraleedharan doesn’t seem to care.
His changing loyalties may have stemmed from lofty political ambitions. He’s been successful in elections. Maybe, his father’s reputation too helped. Muraleedharan has been elected to the Lok Sabha four times — from Kozhikode in 1989, 1991 and 1999, and from Vadakara in 2019. In between, he represented Vattiyoorkavu twice (2011, 2016) in the Kerala Assembly. Kozhikode handed him two losses, besides the Wadakkancherry Assembly seat setback.
Murali, as he’s popularly known, comes to the rescue of Congress this time. A sitting MP, he’s contesting the Nemom seat in the capital Thiruvananthapuram, the lone victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last elections. Congress aims to prevent a repeat of that. So they have entrusted the task to Muraleedharan, who has won twice from the adjoining constituency of Vattiyoorkavu.
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He insists that the Nemom battle against the BJP will send a message that only Congress can take on communalism. “It will have a positive impact across Kerala,” Muraleedharan added.
Nenom is a tricky triangular contest. Kummanam Rajasekharan aims to retain BJP’s seat, won by O. Rajagopal. The left front has pitched CPM’s V. Sivankutty as their candidate. Kummanam is no Rajagopal, lacking in mass appeal and popular support. So BJP’s chances are dim. Sivankutty carries the backing from the government, yet Muraleedharan is likely to emerge the winner. He’s popular, and his lineage will help too.