Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala’s New Delhi visit from Thursday has triggered political speculation, coming as it does against the backdrop of the solar scam that has hit the Oommen Chandy government on its solar plexus.
Mr. Chennithala has not taken the flight to Delhi in the last several months. He had deliberately kept off the national capital when speculation was rife about his possible induction into the Oommen Chandy government with a key portfolio. After a series of discussions between the two leaders that reached nowhere, the ‘induct Chennithala’ move was temporarily given up in view of the current Assembly session — bringing down the political temperature in the Congress considerably. But that proved to be short-lived, because of the solar scam and the mounting Opposition agitation for Mr. Chandy’s resignation.
Though Mr. Chennithala initially sulked over the controversy regarding his entry into the Cabinet, he made the right noises in supporting Mr. Chandy when the latter faced tense moments on the floor of the Assembly and outside on account of the solar scam, especially when it appeared to be rocking the boat for the coalition.
The solar scam involving two of his personal staff members is being viewed as a setback for the Chief Minister. The Opposition’s attempt is to try to link Mr. Chandy to the misdeeds of his staff members. A large number of United Democratic Front supporters swear by the Chief Minister’s impeccable credentials and probity. From the Chief Minister’s point of view, the Opposition agitation is a political problem for him because it has been getting its momentum from the ongoing Assembly session, where proceedings have been disrupted for the last four days.
The party high command has been reluctant to disturb Mr. Chandy, who has earned respect for his popular base. As the current round of allegations and exposes gets shriller, it would be enough to change the party high command’s perception. Mr. Chennithala’s visit assumes importance in this context and there are several party workers who say that it will be the first of those moves that would lead to an image makeover exercise. Mr. Chandy, however, appears to be confident of overcoming the current difficult phase in his term as Chief Minister.