Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will on Wednesday resume his discussions on the proposed Cabinet reshuffle with Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala as a follow-up to his talks with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other national leaders.
The time for the discussions has not been fixed, but it is presumed that it will be held late in the evening since the Chief Minister will be preoccupied with two Cabinet meetings and a series of official programmes during the course of the day.
The Chief Minister has thus far played his cards close to his chest, without revealing his mind on the issue of a Cabinet recast, especially after his interaction with the party high command. Mr. Chandy would have to bring up several options during his meeting with Mr. Chennithala, including the modalities of the latter’s induction into the Cabinet on the basis of a mutually acceptable formula. The main issue continues to be the Home portfolio, with the two leaders on diametrically opposite poles.
In case the two leaders fail to work out the terms of Mr. Chennithala’s entry into the Cabinet, Mr. Chandy will have to consider other options. He would have to decide whether he should maintain the status quo by giving additional charge of Forest and Sports to one of his colleagues. He has been holding the two portfolios since the resignation of K.B. Ganesh Kumar two months ago, or reinduct Mr. Ganesh Kumar on the strength of his party chairman R. Balakrishna Pillai’s written demand. But the re-entry of Mr. Ganesh Kumar is unlikely to have a smooth run, because of the opposition of the Congress and some United Democratic Front partners. Besides, the Chief Minister has not completed the promised discussions with leaders of the constituent parties on the reinduction.
Filling the vacancy
Sources said the Chief Minister can exercise the option of picking someone from the Congress to fill the vacancy in the Cabinet. But this would require the KPCC president’s clearance, since his name too is being considered. Now that the party high command has put the responsibility of sorting out the problems in the State unit on his shoulders, it appears that the Chief Minister would have to take a gamble.
If he is forced to induct Mr. Chennithala by giving up the Home portfolio, he would have to face the wrath of his supporters, who are putting pressure on him to retain it. If he decides to keep Home, then the induction of Mr. Chennithala would be a non-starter, unless of course, Mr. Chandy gets the Indian Union Muslim League to agree to the creation of a Deputy Chief Minister’s post. If Mr. Chennithala fails to get the berth he asked for, the Congress party would then witness a new round of factional fight.