There is usually little to be gained in delaying the inevitable by a day or two. After the Kerala High Court passed strictures against him for filing a petition against his own government, Transport Minister Thomas Chandy should have had the good sense to resign immediately. But, quite inexplicably, he dithered on the issue, embarrassing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and creating divisions within the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF). Indeed, once Alappuzha District Collector T.V. Anupama submitted a report on alleged encroachments by a company in which he holds a stake, Mr. Chandy should have stepped down as a matter of propriety. By moving the court challenging the Collector’s report, prepared on the orders of the government, he virtually invited the judicial reprimand on himself. That he entertained the hope of tiding over the political crisis engulfing him even after the court’s strictures betrays a strange mix of nose-in-the-air arrogance and head-in-the-sand ignorance. For the past few months, Mr. Chandy has been caught in the encroachments controversy . The Lake Palace Resort, part-owned by him, came under a cloud over issues related to reclamation of paddy land to create a vehicle park, diversion of the course of rivulets for construction activities, and laying of an approach road to the resort by filling paddy fields. That the Minister chose to stand by the resort, and not with the government, was the real shocker.
As for Mr. Vijayan, he should have sacked Mr. Chandy instead of leaving it to the Nationalist Congress Party to secure his resignation. That the Minister belonged to a smaller allied party and that the LDF is bound by a coalition dharma are justifications that do not wash in the face of a strong judicial stricture. Not surprisingly, the Communist Party of India saw things differently and boycotted a Cabinet meeting on the ground that Mr. Chandy was a participant. The party argued that Mr. Chandy could not be expected to discharge his responsibilities as a Minister after having challenged the government in a court of law. The CPI’s strident stand can also be explained by the fact that one of its members, E. Chandrasekharan, holds the Revenue portfolio and was monitoring the action against the encroachments. The eventual exit of Mr. Chandy on Wednesday might pave the way for the return of his party colleague A.K. Saseendran to the Cabinet. Mr. Saseendran had to resign following a questionable sting operation in which he is heard allegedly seeking sexual favours from a woman. The LDF is not short of talent, but coalition dynamics require that Mr. Vijayan replace Mr. Chandy with the only other MLA from the NCP. Despite a comfortable majority, Mr. Vijayan might not want to risk upsetting the political equations within the LDF. The real test for him will be to ensure that governance does not suffer amid his deft political manoeuvres.