Kerala

Chandy, Congress in tight spot in Kerala

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy (right) and KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala engaged in a serious discussion ahead of the recent swearing-in ceremony function at the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy (right) and KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala engaged in a serious discussion ahead of the recent swearing-in ceremony function at the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar   | Photo Credit: S_GOPAKUMAR

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By conceding the demand of Indian Union Muslim League for a fifth ministerial berth in the Congress-led UDF government, both Congress and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have landed in a tight spot with several of its leaders coming out against the decision.

Though the issue would not immediately in any way affect the 11-month-old government, which has only a wafer thin majority in the assembly, voices of differences raised by Congress leaders, including Power Minister Arayadan Muhammed, have caste a shadow over the ministry.

According to Congress sources, Mr. Chandy and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala would be meeting party central leaders at New Delhi soon to discuss the state affairs.

UDF has 72 members in the 140-strong assembly and CPI-M-led LDF has 67. One seat is lying vacant, following the resignation of CPI-M’s R Selvaraj, the assembly membership which he won from Neyyatinkara segment in Thiruvananthapuram district.

The discontent brewing up in Congress has come as an embarrassment to UDF as it was riding high on the popularity of Mr. Chandy after the impressive win of the UDF candidate at the assembly bypoll from Piravom constituency last month.

It has become all the more embarrassing as the issue cropped up at a time when the Front was preparing itself to face the crucial bypoll in Neyyatinkara. The Front has extended support to Mr. Selvaraj’s candidature.

Though a long-standing ally of the Congress and second largest partner in the UDF, IUML’s demand for the fifth ministerial position was opposed by sections in Congress fearing it would upset the communal composition of the ministry in which Christians and Muslims outnumber the Hindus.

After a consensus eluded at the KPCC meet held last week, the party leaders held several rounds of discussions with the high command but the latter sent signals that the issue should be resolved at the state level. A decision to allot fifth berth to IUML was finally taken at a UDF meet on April 11.

With the induction of IUML’s Manjalamkuzhi Ali and Anoop Jacob (KC-J), the strength of UDF cabinet has increased to 21, of which 12 are from minority community.

Besides this, the government chief whip and the Deputy Speaker are also from minority community.

As a mark of protest, several Congress leaders did not attend the swearing—in ceremony of Ali who was inducted into the UDF cabinet along with Mr. Anoop Jacob on April 12.

Mr. Muhammed, a senior leader of the party, openly criticised the decision to induct Ali and said it went against the spirit and consensus arrived at the KPCC meet held to discuss IUML’s demand last week. Mr. Muhammed also said it would also affect the future of UDF.

Expressing similar views, former KPCC president K Muraleedharan said he had conveyed to Chennithala that the decision was suicidal to Congress.

Mr. Muraleedharan said Mr. Chennithala had told him that IUML had threatened to withdraw its four ministers from the cabinet if their demand was not accepted.

“How can a Front function in this manner,?” Mr. Muraleedharan asked and said it was not the necessity of Congress alone to sustain the government.

In a bid to appease Nair Service Society, an influential organisation which has often taken a pro-UDF stand, Mr. Chandy effected a reshuffle of portfolios and handed over the Home portfolio to Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, a senior Congress leader from Nair community.

But Mr. Chandy’s move failed to have any impact on NSS which said Chief Minister’s “magic tricks” would not rectify the “communal imbalance” in the ministry.

Sree Narayana Dharma Pariapalana Yogam of the Ezhava community also expressed a similar view and said Congress has become weak in the state.

Defending their demand, IUML has said that fifth ministerial berth was not a new demand of the party. The UDF had given such an assurance at the time of UDF ministry formation itself.

In another development, Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai, whose relations with his son and Forest Minister R Ganeshkumar had strained, has demanded his removal from the cabinet. Though Mr. Pillai’s move would not upset the Ministry, it could cause damage to UDF’s image.

Cracks have also appeared in Kerala Congress(M), another ruling front partner, over one Raja Sabha seat allotted to the party as part of the consensus at the UDF meet.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 9:47:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/chandy-congress-in-tight-spot-in-kerala/article3317120.ece

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