KPCC chief’s prospective entry into Cabinet dominates Congress debates
Will he or won’t he? Should he or shouldn’t he? These are the questions dominating the debates in the Congress of late, cutting across factional lines, on the issue of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala’s prospective entry into the Oommen Chandy Cabinet as part of a revamp package.
The revamp has become urgent in the context of the dent in the United Democratic Front (UDF) government’s image on account of the solar scam and the impending Lok Sabha elections. With the Congress and its coalition partners, including the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Kerala Congress(M), expressing their unconditional support to Mr. Chandy, it has become certain that there would be no discussion on a leadership change during Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s and Mr. Chennithala’s visit to New Delhi for discussions with the party high command. Some high-wire discussions are scheduled on July 28 and 29, which may find Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi joining in.
The pressure is clearly on a reluctant Chennithala to join the team. He had expressed his reservations when the question was discussed two months ago, before being deferred in view of the Assembly session. Mr. Chennithala, at the time, made it clear that he did not want to join the Chandy team because he felt that the Chief Minister did not have the confidence to hand him over the Home portfolio despite extending all kinds of support to him during the eight years he has been the party’s State chief.
The situation has undergone a drastic change since then, with the Chandy government on the back foot over the solar scam. The solar scam has also altered the rationale of the Cabinet reshuffle, with the focus now on image building rather than addressing problems related to maintaining communal balance.
According to sources close to Mr. Chennithala, the entire question of Cabinet reshuffle and handling the fallout of the solar scam are two separate and unrelated issues. The Chennithala-headed ‘I’ faction is also not too sure whether their mentor’s induction into the Cabinet will in any way mend the damage that the UDF’s image has suffered.
The ‘I’ faction holds the view that the Chief Minister is solely responsible for the solar scam, which unlike similar controversies that dogged the party in the past was not connected to factional politics. Mr. Chennithala had travelled the extra mile to extend his support to Mr. Chandy during his hour of crisis. It would be a losing preposition for him to join the team in the aftermath of the solar scam, his supporters feel.
However, the high command viewpoint is that Mr. Chennithala should join the team with a view to shoring up the prospects of the party in the Lok Sabha elections. The IUML has also been pressing the Congress high command to intervene in the Congress affairs.