The high point of the parleys held in connection with the selection of Congress ministers was the pressure on Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala to join the team.

Mr. Chandy had made it clear that he preferred Mr. Chennithala to be part of his Cabinet, but Mr. Chennithala's had decided not to join it.

For the past few days, there had been considerable speculation in the media that Mr. Chennithala would join Mr. Chandy's Cabinet if he got the post of the Deputy Chief Minister and the Home portfolio.

Friday saw attempts by several party leaders, including Congress Working Committee member A.K. Antony and Congress political secretary Ahmed Patel, to persuade Mr. Chennithala.

Mr. Patel informed him of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's view that he should be in the Cabinet. However, Mr. Chennithala politely declined, stating that it would not be in the larger interests of the party.

‘Blank cheque'

Sources said Mr. Chennithala was “offered a blank cheque” and whichever portfolio he wanted, including that of the Deputy Chief Minister.

Mr. Chennithala informed the leaders that he had taken inspiration from Ms. Gandhi in taking such a position. He reportedly told Mr. Patel that his joining the Cabinet might trigger off factionalism, and he wanted to avoid such a situation.

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