Chandy's faction could get six Ministers; decision pending on Speaker's post

The Congress high command continues to grapple with its attempts to select nine party nominees to be included in the Oommen Chandy cabinet. In New Delhi, Mr. Chandy held discussions with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister and Congress Working Committee member A.K. Antony, Union Ministers Vayalar Ravi and K.V. Thomas, and other party MPs on Friday. Later, he spoke to Mrs. Gandhi before leaving for home.

Mr. Chandy told mediapersons in New Delhi that he had completed his discussion and submitted his list to the high command and the decision would be announced on Saturday. According to sources, the Chandy faction in the State unit of the Congress will have six nominees in the Cabinet, including the Chief Minister, and the Chennithala faction five nominees, including the Speaker. It has become almost certain that P.K. Jayalakshmi will be made a Minister. Mr. Chandy dropped broad hints when he was asked about a woman nominee in his Cabinet, stating that all sections would have representation in it.

Likely candidates

Probable choices on the list include Aryadan Mohammed, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, K.C. Joseph, K. Babu and P.K. Jayalakshmi from among the supporters of Mr. Chandy, and Adoor Prakash, C.N. Balakrishnan, A.P. Anil Kumar and V.S. Sivakumar from among the supporters of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala. The only issue that awaits the decision is the selection of the Speaker. The choice may fall on V.D. Satheesan or G. Karthikeyan.

A tough task

Sources said Mr. Karthikeyan had declined to become Speaker when he was sounded about the proposal by All India Congress Committee general secretary Ahmed Patel. Mr. Satheesan is also reported to be reluctant to become Speaker. Each have their own reasoning for not taking up the Speakership, which may be a tough job this time because of the presence of a strong Opposition. Contrary to prior expectations, Mr. Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan would find a berth in the Cabinet, lending strength to the Chief Minister. Earlier, Mr. Radhakrishnan was tipped to be made Speaker, but in the ensuing discussion, he was preferred for a Ministerial berth, sources said.

Significantly, Mr. Chandy did not wait for the finalisation of the list of Congress Ministers. He left for Thiruvananthapuram by putting the ball in the high command's court to approve his list. Sources said that the list would be announced on Saturday and the swearing-in of the new Ministers, including those belonging to UDF partners, would be held on Monday. The allocation of portfolios has been finalised, but this would be announced by Mr. Chandy later because it happens to be a prerogative of the Chief Minister, sources said.