Chandy all set to reshuffle cabinet

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy is all set to reshuffle his cabinet, two years after assuming office this day.

“I am under tremendous pressure to join the cabinet. In the coming days, the top leadership of our party is going to sit down to discuss all possibilities,” state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala told.

Chennithala has been in office for nearly nine years and the moment his name was cleared to contest the April 2011 assembly polls, the Chandy camp became jittery. Many thought he would become number two in the Chandy cabinet but he declined to be inducted.

“We have had the best of relations. Can you remember any incident where there has been any spat between us on any issue,” Chandy asked.

One reason why Chennithala’s has cropped up again is the frequent public utterances by two top leaders of the Hindu social groups, Sukumaran Nair of the Nair Service Society and Vellapaly Natesan, representing Hindu Ezhava community.

Their grouse is that despite Hindus constituting more than 50 percent of the 3.30 crore Kerala population, it is the minority communities – Muslims and Christians – who “control” the government.

With the two Hindu leaders going public and even threatening to teach the Congress party a lesson and with Lok Sabha polls due in 2014, Congress MPs recently met party vice president Rahul Gandhi to urge the national leadership to step in and that Defence Minister A.K.Antony play a larger role in state politics.

“Yes, Chandy has requested that his workload be reduced because he also holds the forest and sports portfolio (following the resignation of K.B.Ganesh Kumar last month). It has been decided to have a new minister and he will be from the Congress,” United Democratic Front convenor P.P. Thankachan said.

With Gandhi arriving here today evening to address the valedictory function on the completion of Chennithala’s state-wide yatra and Antony also being present, this is expected to set the ball rolling for Chandy to reshuffle his cabinet and induct at least one new Congress minister.

“The only issue that’s now before the leadership is if Chennithala joins, would he be given the prized home portfolio, which he insists should be his. But Chandy and his powerful majority faction in the party is not willing to give it away. Instead, Chennithala would be made the deputy chief minister with revenue and tourism as his portfolios,” a top Congress leader told on condition of anonymity.

“Yes, for the past four decades, there have been factions in our party here, but for the past few years, everything is smooth despite the presence of factions,” Chennithala said when asked if factionalism has again raised its ugly head.

If Chennithala joins the cabinet, then assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan is likely to take over as party chief, with Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan or junior Information Minister K.C.Joseph replacing him.

One school of thought is that Chandy should take back the home portfolio.

All in all, there are going to be hectic parleys in the coming days and as things stand, for once, it’s expected to be a smooth affair.

– Sanu George (IANS)

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