Hit by the unexpected turn of events in the Congress over the issue of Cabinet reshuffle, United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition partner Kerala Congress (M) [KC(M)] appears to have decided to take a tactical retreat from a high-pitched demand for upgrading its status and instead focus more on mobilising support at the party’s grassroots-level in settler farmer areas.

In spite of highly emotional demands for more drastic steps at a meeting of the party’s high power committee here on Saturday, the top leaders appear to have taken a decision to focus on the Gadgil Commission report, Kasturirangan Committee report, title deeds for settler farmers, and the call for increase in import duty of natural rubber, giving clear signal that the party has decided to lie down, waiting for the next opportune time.

Delinking issues

Ever since the collapse of the Delhi talks, the KC(M) leaders were engaged in an effort to delink the issues of a berth in the Union Cabinet and an increase in the number of Parliament seats in the ensuing elections with the issue of the induction of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala into the State Cabinet.

The reported statement from Mr. Chennithala on the coalition partners’ role in scuttling the Delhi talks appears to have its expected effect on the KC(M) leadership, especially after the revelation that his actions had the tacit blessings of the Congress high command.

While the issue of a Cabinet berth was a delicate subject since the beneficiary would be none other than Jose K. Mani, the son of party leader K.M. Mani; that of a second seat was essential for keeping the balance of power within the party as it could go to former P.J. Joseph associate Francis George, if it materialises.

The KC(M) leaders pointed out that their demands were legitimate as the party had three seats each in 1970 and 1984, when the groups stood together.

Though an opportunity to press for their demands has been lost, the party is not in a position to antagonise the Congress as they are well aware that squabbles in the UDF have the potential to affect the electoral outcome in the coming Parliament elections. In fact, the party had lost more than one seat in the Central Travancore area on account of internal dissent in the last Assembly elections.

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