Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has crossed the first hurdle in the solar scam issue by getting the unconditional backing of the Congress high command during his recent visit to Delhi.
He has succeeded in foreclosing the question of a leadership change or a Cabinet reshuffle, which was heatedly debated in the State in the aftermath of the solar scandal and the strong and rather violent agitation by the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) for his resignation owning up the responsibility for the scam. Congress Working Committee member and Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s statement in Kochi ruling out either a leadership change or a Cabinet reshuffle has reinforced his position, bringing down the curtains on the debate for the time being.
He said that the Congress high command did not have such a proposal before it. “It is but normal for the ruling dispensation of the day to face controversies. The State government should learn a lesson from the ongoing row” Mr. Antony said.
During his sojourn in Delhi, Mr. Chandy gave a personal explanation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi about the actual status of the solar scam. His explanation that he was not named in any contemporary investigation or by the courts was apparently accepted on its face value.
His argument that the LDF agitation was politically motivated and was a conspiracy to destabilise the government was also fully accepted. He had called on the Congress president after ensuring the unconditional support of coalition partners and the Congress party, despite its factional divisions.
But it is certain that Mr. Chandy will have to live with factionalism that has become rabid after the row over the induction of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala into his Cabinet. A reshuffle now appears to be a remote preposition. The AICC’s clean chit has in effect put the entire responsibility on Mr. Chandy to ensure the UDF’s victory, particularly the Congress party’s, in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Now that he has crossed the first hurdle, Mr. Chandy has indicated he will rather replay his mass contact programmes covering the 14 districts in the State, starting August 12. Mr. Chandy had announced the programme much before the solar scam jolted his Ministry, but he will be under pressure to restore its credibility that has eroded since then.