State Congress leadership now back to square one

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has shot down the proposal to create Deputy Chief Minister’s post and the Congress leadership now finds itself back to square one in its attempts to correct its equations with majority and minority communities by inducting Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala into the Cabinet.

It is understood that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is likely to visit New Delhi on June 3 subject to his getting an appointment with the Congress high command. Though his office claims that his Delhi visit has been scheduled earlier, there is a feeling in Congress circles that Mr. Chandy now seeks to place his predicament before the high command.

IUML leaders P.K. Kunhalikutty, E.T. Mohammed Basheer, and K.P.A. Majeed met Mr. Chandy on Thursday as part of their bilateral discussions and conveyed their party’s views. They made it clear that their party is strongly opposed to opening the question of creating the post. The party does not want the post for it, but it is opposed to changing the structure of the United Democratic Front, in which it perceives itself as the second largest force.

Besides, the Cabinet has an established system of functioning where the IUML is placed second in the pecking order. It is, therefore, opposed to changing the system. The IUML leaders supported the idea of inducting the KPCC president into the Cabinet, but at the same time expressed their apprehension that the presence of a Deputy Chief Minister in the Cabinet might end up sharpening the edges of factionalism in the Congress. The IUML does not want to be caught in the midst of this, the leaders are reported to have told Mr. Chandy. The IUML does not have any objections to rearrangements of portfolios allotted to the Congress party.

Interestingly, the IUML State chief Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal and IUML national president E. Ahamed, who were in the city to attend the party’s State secretariat, did not attend the UDF meeting, perhaps to avoid giving any commitment to the Congress leadership.

As a result of the IUML’s uncompromising stand, both Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala will have to rework the formulas they had agreed upon at their meeting a couple of days ago. Sources close to Mr. Chennithala say that he has not gone back on his initial demand for the post of Deputy Chief Minister along with Home. Given the imperatives of enabling the party arrive at a fair solution to the problems it is facing, he had agreed to consider taking up the Revenue portfolio along with the post of Deputy Chief Minister subject to certain conditions such as the Chief Minister should hold the Home portfolio, besides taking the initiative of handling coalition partners and getting the clearance of the high command. Since the Chief Minister has not exactly succeeded in bringing the IUML around, Mr. Chennithala’s initial stand is now relevant, the sources say. Mr. Chandy, however, plays his cards close to his chest, hoping to continue his dialogues with the coalition partners. Sources close to Mr. Chandy rule out the question of surrendering the Home portfolio. As things stand now, the Congress party is not in a position to take its proposal forward in the light of the IUML’s opposition. Senior Congress leaders feel that the party high command will have to step in to prevent a deadlock.

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