Chandy’s Delhi visit kick-starts Cabinet reshuffle move again

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s New Delhi visit this time has revived the moves for a Cabinet reshuffle, as part of the party’s formula to overcome a set of issues by inducting Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala into his team.

Mr. Chandy called on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Friday and held discussions with him on the political developments in the State, including the solar scam and the reshuffle. He also held discussions with Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Mr. Chandy later indicated his preference for an early decision on the Cabinet reshuffle. He expected the party high command to take an expeditious decision on the reshuffle. He continued to hold the view that Mr. Chennithala should join his team. A decision on the portfolio could be taken once Mr. Chennithala made up his mind, he said at a press conference in New Delhi.

The Cabinet reshuffle move had been deferred early June, ahead of an Assembly session, because Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala could not come to an understanding on the demand for the Home portfolio. An offended Chennithala made it clear that it was impossible for him to join the Cabinet since the Chief Minister did not have confidence in handing over the Home portfolio, forgetting the support he, as KPCC president, had extended to Mr. Chandy during the last eight years. But the outbreak of the solar scam set off a trail of developments that resulted in a truncated 12-day Assembly session. The scam gave the impression that the Chief Minister was treading a shaky path, but he succeeded in warding off possible debates on a leadership change by consolidating his equations with the coalition partners. The scam has changed the parameters of the reshuffle move as a result of the strain that has developed between Mr. Chandy and his Home Minister, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, over the leak of phone calls lists of UDF leaders linking them to the scam accused. Mr. Chennithala appeared to be making the right moves by extending all kinds of support to Mr. Chandy during the worst of his days, Tackling the scam fallout, thereby keeping the door open to facilitate his entry. Had he opposed Mr. Chandy on the solar scam, it would have made matters difficult for the high command, it is pointed out. The strained ties between the Chief Minister and the Home Minister is believed to make matters easier on a decision on the Home portfolio. Mr. Chennithala is expected in New Delhi by July 26.