V. Surendran Pillai, the lone MLA of the Kerala Congress led by P.C. Thomas, was on Tuesday sworn in as a Minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan Cabinet. The Governor R.S. Gavai administered the oath of office and secrecy at a solemn function at the Raj Bhavan. The 54-year-old Surendran Pillai will hold the Ports and Youth Affairs portfolios.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Speaker K. Radhakrishnan, Law Minister K. Vijaya Kumar, Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran, Forest Minister Binoy Vishwom, Devaswom Minister Ramachandran Kadanapally, Transport Minister Jose Thettiyil, Mayor K. Jayan Babu and former Member of Parliament and KC (T) leader P.C. Thomas were present. The Opposition was represented by Congress Deputy Leader in the Assembly G. Karthikeyan. Legislators representing Thiruvananthapuram were also present along with hundreds of his supporters who were accommodated in a special enclosure in the Raj Bhavan grounds to witness the swearing-in ceremony.

Pillai’s swearing-in ceremony was the seventh that the Raj Bhavan was witnessing after the Achuthanandan Ministry assumed office. He is the 16th Kerala Congress leader to be sworn-in as Minister. Surendran Pillai won the Thiruvananthapuram West Assembly constituency on the Kerala Congress (Joseph) ticket. He along with former MP P.C. Thomas chose to stay put in the Left Democratic Front when the Kerala Congress (Joseph) decided to merge with the Kerala Congress (Mani) and quit the Left coalition two months ago. The other three KC (Joseph) MLAs went along with the merger, leaving Pillai to represent the residual party, which took the name Kerala Congress (Thomas).

Pillai gets the plum portfolio of Ports, even though he has hardly any time before the Assembly elections which is due in 8 months. The Ports and Youth Affairs portfolios were with M. Vijaya Kumar, who now been re-allotted Public Works, handled by the Kerala Congress (Joseph) till P.J. Joseph’s exit. Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Issac was handling Public Works after Joseph’s exit. With major port development programmes on cards, including the Vizhinjam International Deepsea Container Transhipment Terminal at a crucial stage, Pillai will have his hands full directing this project.