Oommen Chandy, who may become Kerala Chief Minister if Congress-led UDF wins the April 13 Assembly polls, had refused to seek the help of late K Karunakaran for occupying the post as he did not want "any strings" to be attached.
57-year-old Chandy, who was the front-runner to succeed A K Antony as Chief Minister of Kerala after he quit in August 2004 owning moral responsibility for the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha elections held in May that year, placed three conditions to the party as he wanted to work without fearing "anyone".
According to a new book 'A Gracious Voice: Life of Oommen Chandy', "the first condition placed by Chandy was that his political mentor Antony should not be removed from the Chief Minister's chair". The book authored by P T Chacko and C C Thomas has been published by Konark Publishing Pvt Ltd.
"Two, he would not wear the CM's topi (cap) as part of a package or on the basis of any compromise. Third and last, if the Party High Command had anybody else in mind, he would not don the CM's robe," the book says.
Antony, who had been expressing his intention to step down since the election results were out, met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on August 29, 2004 when she had come to Kollam and expressed his desire to quit as Chief Minister.
"Within 10 minutes of her departure for Delhi, he (Antony) made the dramatic declaration of his resignation," the book, for which former Union Minister of State Shahsi Tharoor has written a foreword, says.
Before Gandhi left for Delhi, Chandy met the Congress chief at the instance of her political secretary Ahmed Patel.
After this, some of his aides, the book says, asked Chandy to ask K Karunakaran and Vakkom Purushothamana for help after Antony's resignation.
"He did not do so because he did not want any strings attached to the CM's office if and when it was offered to him. He wished to work without fearing anyone and the shadow of anyone's favour clouding his work," the book says. The authors also narrate the incidents before senior Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee and Margaret Alva who came to Kerala to participate in the Congress Legislature Party meeting where majority of MLAs expressed their opinion in favour of Chandy.
The book also dwells at length on the 2003 Rajya Sabha elections in which Karunakaran, who is referred to as 'I' group of the Congress in the book, fielded his own candidate against the official Congress nominees. However, the rebel candidate could not make it at the hustings.
After the elections, the book says, the 'I' group attempted to overthrow the UDF Government which was countered by "timely manoeuvres". The group had planned to vote against the A K Antony government during the debate in the Assembly on Supplementary Demands. If they had succeeded, they could have defeated the ruling front.
"The 'Official Group' of the Congress, Oommen Chandy, Aryadan Muhammed and others racked their brains. A fax message arrived from the AICC and Speaker Vakkom Purushothaman was to disqualify four MLAs for having operated as election agents to the rebel candidate," the book says.
The disqualification meant that the 'I' Group's strength would be reduced to 17 from 21 and they would be unable to defeat the whip and vote the government to defeat.
"The dramatic move silenced the group. Though the AICC fax was charged to be fraudulent, Ahmed Patel confirmed that he had dispatched it," it says.
The book says the 'I' group saw another battlefront emerging when they had to decide on the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha by-elections in Ernakulam. As the sitting MP was from the group, they decided to field their own candidate against official nominee M O John.
"Later they changed their plan and worked for the Left backed Independent Sebastian Paul who saw victory with a margin of 22,132 votes. The book suggests that Karunakaran and his camp worked against Congress.
The authors recall that Karunakaran said "the television is a great contribution from Indiraji to the country. Don't forget that". The TV was Paul's symbol.
The book also narrates several incidents in the political life of Chandy and his personal relationship with Antony and the authors say the two had walked along each other for several decades.
Some lighter moments during his tenure as Chief Minister are also pictured in the book. One such is that the Chief Minister giving Rs 100 from his pocket to a youth who came to his office asking a person to test a drug, which he claimed would cure dreaded HIV/AIDS.