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Crisis within Congress in Kerala after party MLA M. Vincent arrested for rape

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-07-2017 Nidheesh M.K.

Bengaluru: Last week’s arrest of a Congress party legislator in Kerala over charges of rape and criminal intimidation has sparked demands for his resignation and weakened its attack on the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) on violence against women.

Not content with his removal as the party’s general secretary, a section of the Congress, especially women, has demanded the resignation of M. Vincent, who represents the Kovalam assembly constituency.

Vincent was arrested on Saturday after a 51-year-old female neighbour who was saved from a suicide bid accused the legislator of raping her repeatedly over several years. He was sent to judicial custody by a local court in Thiruvananthapuram for 14 days on the same day.

The same day, Shanimol Usman, a former national secretary of Congress party and a member of its state level political affairs committee, said Vincent should have quit after the arrest. However, M.M. Hassan, Congress interim president in Kerala, on Sunday rejected the demand, calling the case politically motivated. He said Vincent need not resign until he is convicted.

“Out of decency, he has been suspended from all official posts within the party, except his primary membership. Until he comes out clear or convicted, this should be enough,” he added.

On Tuesday, LDF workers will hold a rally before the state secretariat on Tuesday demanding his exit, said Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and Thiruvananthapuram district secretary Anavoor Nagappan. He said the front will boycott all public functions related to Vincent.

According to a report in The Hindu, Vincent was arrested under Sections 376(2) and 354 of the penal code, among others, which relates to repeated rape to criminal intimidation to outrage modesty.

Vincent and his family members have said the case was politically motivated. On Sunday, Hassan too said the complaint comes from a person whose brother is a CPM worker and has been undergoing treatments for mental ailments.

If Vincent indeed quits as an MLA, there will be a by-election, and the Congress party which is already weak is not keen on facing one right now. Whatever be the merits of the case, the backdrop in which it is unfolding does not bode well for the party, said a senior Congress leader from Kerala, requesting not to be named.

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