The Congress Legislature Party on Sunday unanimously elected Oommen Chandy as its leader. This was followed by the United Democratic Front (UDF) formally nominating him as its candidate for Chief Minister.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday. The UDF is yet to take a decision on others who would take the oath of office and secrecy along with Mr. Chandy.
At the Congress Legislature Party meeting, Mr. Chandy's name was proposed by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala and seconded by Aryadan Mohammed. The election process was formally launched after Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Mohsina Kidwai and AICC general secretary Madhusoodan Mistry, who is in charge of Kerala, held a one-to-one meeting in their capacity as observers with the 38 elected MLAs. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was informed about the one-line resolution authorising her to nominate the CLP leader and this was promptly cleared, facilitating Mr. Chennithala to make the formal announcement.
The stage for Mr. Chandy's unanimous election was set when Mr. Chennithala announced earlier in the day that he had no plans to contest for the post of CLP leader. Mr. Chennithala scoffed at speculations on television channels about a possible showdown at the CLP meeting, maintaining he had at no point of time considered contesting. His mission, he said, was to strengthen the party, something which had strived hard for the last seven years.
Right from the beginning, it was clear that Mr. Chandy would emerge triumphant as the Chief Minister candidate. He had the first claim for a second innings after a brief term as Chief Minister from September 2005 to May 2006 and later as the Leader of the Opposition for a full five-year term. The widespread speculation of a possible change in leadership owing to a change in the communal composition of the elected members has been out of place as the party high command appears to have chosen to leverage its lack of ruling numbers in the coalition by maintaining the status quo and ploughing for unity in the party.
The significance of Mr. Chandy's unanimous election is that it gives him sufficient leeway to negotiate with coalition partners, who are demanding a change in the formula of ministry formation in tune with the changed circumstances.