Amid signs of the Mullaperiyar row snowballing into a major crisis for the Oommen Chandy government, an emergency meeting of the State Cabinet has been convened here late on Monday night to discuss the latest developments, particularly the widespread anger about Advocate-General K.P. Dandapani's submissions before the Kerala High Court on the issue on Friday.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has asked the Advocate-General to be present at the Cabinet meeting and clarify matters. The general perception, shared by even prominent leaders in the government and the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), is that Mr. Dandapani had compromised Kerala's case for a new dam at Mullaperiyar with his reported submission that the impact of any breach in the Mullaperiyar dam can be contained using the Idukki, Cheruthoni, and Kulamavu dams.
Mr. Dandapani had strongly denied having said anything that would weaken the State's stance on the Mullaperiyar issue and that he had only explained to the Division Bench of the High Court the evacuation plan prepared by the Idukki district administration.
However, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan and the senior Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran had sought Mr. Dandapani's removal from the post. On Sunday, the Nair Service Society (NSS) joined the chorus and warned the government that failure to do so would be construed as a sign of weakness on the part of the government.
Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan had stated on Saturday that if the Advocate-General had indeed taken a position that went against the State's interests, he would have to account for it. Law and Finance Minister K.M. Mani also expressed his displeasure over the issue telling reporters here on Sunday that no submission should be made before the High Court without being vetted by the Law Department.
The Advocate-General called on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in his home in Kottayam on Sunday. Emerging from the meeting, the Chief Minister told reporters that he had told the Advocate-General to be present at the Cabinet meeting on Monday to clarify his submission to the entire Cabinet.
Whether that would indeed result in Mr. Dandapani's removal as Advocate-General is a moot point, but there are clear signs that the government is worried about the fallout of inaction on the Advocate-General issue at the all-party meeting slated for Tuesday and the special Assembly session on Friday.
Meanwhile, chinks appeared to develop in the ruling alliance over the issue with the Kerala Congress(M) rejecting the Chief Minister's stand that Ministers should not participate in public protests over the Mullaperiyar issue. Mr. Mani announced here that he would observe a day-long fast in the dam area in Idukki and his party colleague and Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph would do so at Birla Mandir in New Delhi.
Mr. Joseph told reporters in Delhi on Sunday that his fast was not an agitation but a prayer for a change of heart for the good of the people of Kerala.