The much talked about meeting between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala to discuss the mode of Cabinet reshuffle did not make much headway on Tuesday as the two leaders could not come to an understanding on the number 2 slot in the Cabinet.
The tussle for the Home portfolio continued to be the main stumbling block in the discussions. The Chief Minister put forward his proposal to allot the Deputy Chief Minister’s post along with revenue portfolio to Mr. Chennithala, but refused to give up Home.
He said he had no reservations in handing over the Deputy Chief Minister’s post to Mr. Chennithala, who is understood to have made his stand very clear on the Home portfolio. But he said he would have to discuss the Chief Minister’s proposal with his supporters before responding to it. He also reportedly wanted the Chief Minister to discuss his proposal of installing a Deputy Chief Minister with the coalition partners, especially the Indian Union Muslim League, which has expressed its opposition, at least in private, to the move.
Several formulas kept doing its rounds during the course of the day, including speculations about a comprehensive Cabinet reshuffle. At one point of time, it seemed that the meeting between the two leaders would not materialise given the complications. But UDF convener P.P. Thankachan, who played out the role of mediator with aplomb, convinced the two leaders to agree to a meeting to keep the discussions on.
Tuesday’s late night talks cannot be termed as a deadlock.
It was cordial, and lasted for just 20 minutes, unlike the previous meeting which lasted for 45 minutes at the end of which the two leaders did not hide their consternation at each other’s stand.
In view of the high command’s reluctance to intervene, the responsibility of settling problems fell on the Chief Minister, who too, made the correct political moves.
In the morning, the ‘I’ group met to discuss the strategy to be adopted at the meeting. In the meantime, K. Muraleedharan, MLA, called on Mr. Chennithala and expressed his solidarity. Sources said that Mr. Muraleedharan would work in tandem with the ‘I’ group.