Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan said here on Wednesday that he did not propose to persuade the Kerala Congress into staying in the ruling Left Democratic Front.
Reacting to reports about plans of the Kerala Congress leader and Public Works Minister P. J. Joseph and his supporters in the party to leave the Front, the Chief Minister said that Mr. Joseph could have perhaps taken such a decision because of irresolvable inner-party issues. “Let us wait and see.”
The Chief Minister confirmed that Mr. Joseph did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting and that he had not informed him of his decision to stay away from the meeting.
Mr. Achuthanandan told the media after the Cabinet meeting that the Left Democratic Front would continue its work with strong resolve and the support of the people. It would cooperate with those willing to remain in the Front and cooperate with it, he said. However, nothing would be done to prevent those leaving the Front from doing so, he added.
“Constituents of a Front are expected to stand together. If any party decided to leave, it cannot be forced to stay on,” Mr. Achuthanandan said.
Mr. Achuthanandan replied in the negative when asked whether he would be seeking immediate resignation of Mr. Joseph. “You have reported that he is quitting the Ministry and now you are asking me whether I would ask him to resign.”
Earlier in the day, Mr. Joseph announced that the party State Committee would decide on quitting ruling Front and merging with the Kerala Congress (Mani) on Friday. (Kerala Congress-Mani is part of the Opposition United Democratic Front led by the Indian National Congress.)
However, differences have surfaced in the party over the move of Mr. Joseph and his supporters to leave the ruling Front. Party Secretary General P. C. Thomas and his supporters reportedly want to remain in the LDF. The Kerala Congress led by Joseph has four members in the Assembly. Of the four, V. Surendran Pillai is opposed to the party leaving the Front.
Some of the Indian National Congress leaders in the State are also not happy about the development as they would have to forfeit seats in the coming elections to accommodate the ‘Joseph group’ leaders in the United Democratic Front.
If the party decides to merge with the Kerala Congress (Mani), Mr. Joseph may resign from the Ministry on Saturday and his group would merge with the Mani group in June. The new party would take the name of Joseph’s party (Kerala Congress) and the election symbol of Kerala Congress (Mani).
Earlier, a Kerala Congress splinter group led by P. C. George had joined the Kerala Congress (Mani), after quitting the Left Democratic Front.