Today’s UDF high-power committee meet is all set to be crucial

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has virtually thrown a spanner in the Congress works by deciding to place in the public domain its strong opposition to the creation of Deputy Chief Minister post in the United Democratic Front (UDF) Ministry.

The UDF’s high-power committee, scheduled to meet here on Thursday, is now all set to be crucial for the ruling coalition and the Congress, which has been toying with the idea of accommodating Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala in a key Cabinet position.

The Muslim League, as the second largest party in the coalition, is of the strong opinion that it has the first claim to the post. Since the inauguration of a Deputy Chief Minister is a matter of policy, the party leadership holds the view that it has to be discussed and decided by the liaison committee of the ruling coalition. Similarly, the allotment of portfolios to coalition partners is also decided by the UDF committee, after which it is left to the respective parties to decide on its nominees to be inducted into the Cabinet.

A post it held once

The Muslim League leadership does not have any objection to the entry of Mr. Chennithala into the Oommen Chandy Cabinet. At the same time, it does not want to give up the privileged slot it had held long back. The party fears that the induction of a Deputy Chief Minister by the dominant party of the coalition may become a permanent feature, making it difficult for its leadership to manage the pulls and pressures within the party, sources said.

The UDF, ever since its advent as a consolidated coalition, has never witnessed the induction of a Deputy Chief Minister from the front leader, the Congress. There had been two occasions when the Muslim League had held the post. The late C.H. Mohammed Koya was Deputy Chief Minister in the 1982 K. Karunakaran Ministry, and after his death in 1983 K. Avukader Kutty Naha. The Congress leadership would now make all-out efforts to work around the IUML leadership thinking in order to get it accept its current moves, which have now emerged crucial for the UDF itself, senior Congress leaders point out.

IUML strategy

The IUML State secretariat is meeting here early Thursday morning ahead of the UDF high-power committee meeting to finalise its strategies. The leadership will have to face hawks who want the party to take a tough stand in response to the current political situation.

Muslim League strongman P.K. Kunhalikutty has already made it clear that it would be difficult for his party to surrender its number two slot. Party State general secretary E.T. Mohammed Basheer has gone one step further by stating that his party has the first claim to the post. However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy seeks to play down the Muslim League stand by stating that he will consult all coalition partners and get the Congress high command’s clearance.

Ganesh’s entry

The UDF will also take up discussions on re-inducting K.B. Ganesh Kumar into the Cabinet on the basis of a letter submitted by Kerala Congress (B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai. However, a positive decision is unlikely owing to the opposition from some of the coalition partners.

The KPCC has already stated that the question of Mr. Ganesh Kumar’s return to the Cabinet will have to be discussed in Congress forums. Other constituents such as the Kerala Congress (Jacob) have also objected to the move to give ‘two’ Cabinet slots to Mr. Pillai’s party.

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