CM faces uphill task in choosing Ministers

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 20. The Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, today left for New Delhi to hold discussions with the Congress high command on the induction of Congress Ministers in his Cabinet.

The KPCC president, Mr. K. Muraleedharan, left for New Delhi from Kozhikode, while the senior leader, Mr. K. Karunakaran, is leaving for the national capital on Monday.

Shortly before his departure to New Delhi, Mr. Antony said that the UDF Government would not be assuming a confrontationist posture with the NDA Government at the Centre, but it would not compromise on the State's interests.

``The Government is not going to treat the Centre as an enemy. But the issues facing the State like dwindling commodity prices and cut in food subsidy will be taken up seriously,'' he said.

The Government would draw up a multi-pronged plan to curtail expenditure at all levels. If necessary, more Central assistance would be sought to tide over the acute fiscal crisis, he said.

Mr. Antony said that he had a few ideas in mind regarding his ministerial team from the Congress. The final list would be announced after discussions with the party high command, he said.

Mr. Antony will also attend the Chief Ministers' conference, convened by the Prime Minister to discuss WTO-related issues, on Monday. After the meeting, he will turn his attention on deliberations on Cabinet expansion.

One significant feature about his moves is that he had shown the inclination to consult Mr. Karunakaran at every stage in finalising his team. Mr. Antony has to choose his team to handle the portfolios of Finance, Electricity, Forest, Fisheries, Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Excise, Health, Civil Supplies Tourism, and allied subjects.

The Congress has been left with some of the most difficult portfolios for which the party and the Chief Minister would have to select nominees with a combination of administrative experience, clean image and freshness.

The list of probables are pretty long and they include Mr. K. Sankaranarayanan, Mr. Oommen Chandy, Mr. Aryadan Mohammed, Mr. Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Mr. M.M. Hassan, Prof. K.V. Thomas, Ms. Savithri Lakshmanan, Mr. Kadavoor Sivadasan, Ms. Mercy Ravi, Mr. G. Karthikeyan and Mr. K. Sankaran to name a few.

There are some old guards like Mr. Vakkom Purushothaman and Mr. M.P. Gangadharan who would like to consolidate on the revival of their political fortunes having come into the political mainstream after a long wait.

While choosing his nominees, Mr. Antony would have to maintain factional and communal equations, besides ensuring adequate regional balance not only in relation to the Congress but also the UDF as a whole.

According to present indications, the Chief Minister is likely to retain the strike by inducting some of his trusted aides.

The Antony and Karunakaran factions are likely to get the majority of berths. The Congress has to fill up 10 berths, including the Speaker's and Deputy Speaker's post.

The Antony and Karunakaran factions are likely to get three ministerial berths and one of the legislative posts each. The other two minor factions led by Mr. Ramesh Chennithala and Mr. Vayalar Ravi are likely to get one berth each.

If this formula runs aground, it is possible that one of the minor groups would have to be satisfied with a legislative posting.

One of the main problems for the Congress is the fact that it has to ensure proper representation for the two major Hindu communities, which had wholeheartedly supported it in the election.

Mr. Antony has a difficult time selecting a team.