A hectic week in Kerala politics (Kerala Newsletter)

Thiruvananthapuram, April 6 (IANS) It was a hectic week for all those who matter in Kerala politics. Film-star-turned-politician K.B. Ganesh Kumar was Monday forced to quit the Oommen Chandy government as forest minister after his estranged wife accused him of domestic violence. The issue took precedence over Saudi Arabia’s new labour policy that poses a threat to the half-a-million Keralites who work in that country.

Things started going wrong for Ganesh Kumar during the last week of February when his once close friend and the government’s chief whip in the assembly P.C. George said the 46-year-old minister was beaten up by his lover’s husband, much to the dismay of the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front in the state.

However, since the accusation came from the “big mouthed” George, for some time it appeared that Ganesh Kumar was safe. The chief minister too denied that such an incident ever took place.

“Enquiries were made and no such incident has taken place,” Chandy said.

With the assembly in session, the issue was highlighted by the opposition, but soon, the more serious issue of the new Saudi labour policy, which reserves 10 percent of jobs for locals, came up.

Kumar’s estranged wife Yamini Thankachi – a doctor – met Chandy to apprise him of her domestic travails.

The opposition soon swung into action. After accusing the Chandy government of not taking any steps to help those who would be affected by the new Saudi policy, the opposition changed course and again took up the Ganesh Kumar issue.

“The chief minister’s house is being used to conspire against a hapless lady who says she was thrashed by her minister husband. Chandy, instead of accepting her complaint, cheated her,” said Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan.

The situation turned worse when Thankachi filed a police complaint against her husband for beating her up.

Buckling under pressure, Ganesh Kumar resigned close to midnight Monday, saying this will facilitate an impartial probe into his wife’s allegations.

“My hands are clean. Since I did not dance to some people’s tune, a conspiracy was hatched to make baseless allegations against me,” Ganesh Kumar said soon after submitting his resignation.

Thankachi, however, called a press conference to “expose” Kumar and accused Chandy of “cheating” her.

“I asked her what she meant by saying that I cheated her. She said she was depressed and did not mean anything,” Chandy retorted.

With Ganesh Kumar gone, the opposition is now targeting Chandy and unruly scenes have returned to the state assembly.

“He can’t even guarantee the safety of a minister’s wife despite a new ordinance that guarantees strict action against those who lower the dignity of women. How is he going to take care of the women in our state? He has to go and we will not lie low,” Achuthanandan thundered.

Chandy, however, remains unperturbed. “Right from the day I was sworn in, the opposition has been demanding my resignation,” he said.

The chief minister constituted a five-member cabinet committee Thursday to prepare a rehabilitation package for Keralites forced to return from Saudi Arabia due to the new labour policy. He also dropped hints that the cabinet seat held by Ganesh Kumar would remain vacant for the time being.

There are 6.5 million Indians in the Gulf, including 2.45 million in Saudi Arabia – of whom 576,000 are from Kerala alone.

According to the World Bank, in 2012 Indians worldwide sent back remittances of $70 billion, with around 60 percent of it coming from those working in the Gulf.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])

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