It’s turning out to be an affair to remember for Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but for all the wrong reasons.
His United Democratic Front government, which is clinging on to power by a slender majority, has suffered several setbacks in the last two years. But the latest blow has probably been the most lethal of all. An extra-marital affair and allegations of domestic violence littered the exit route of K B Ganesh Kumar, the lone MLA of Kerala Congress B from his Cabinet. Now, the challenge before Chandy is chooosing the right person to fill Ganesh’s shoes. There are many aspirants for the post, and choosing one over another while balancing a coalition formula could become a herculean task.
Chandy has said the portfolios held by Ganesh Kumar—forest, sports and cinema—would remain vacant for the time being and no hasty decisions would be taken on replacement.
Though it could be assumed that his priority was to defuse the present tension created by allegations raised by Ganesh Kumar and his estranged wife Yamini Thankachi, the reality is that he needs time to work around the crisis.
Sources said Chandy would take a decision only after KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala’s ‘Kerala Yatra’, which starts from April 18, ends on May 18. “It would give Chandy ample time to take a decision,” a source said. Chennithala, on the other hand, said what he usually does whenever ‘pressured’ to assign the chair of a minister. “I am not willing to be a part of the ministry. Matters like Cabinet reshuffle and all will be decided in the UDF meeting,” he said.
The probable candidates for the vacant post are V D Satheesan, K Muralidharan and Sivadasan Nair.
V D Satheesan’s vibrant nature makes him acceptable to all factions in the Congress. The dilemma is that he is not acceptable to the Nair Service Society, though he comes from the same community. The NSS believes that he would not take care of their interest.
K Muralidharan, son of late K Karunakaran who brought groupism in the Congress, is acceptable to NSS. Muralidharan’s recent calling on NSS General Secretary Sukumaran Nair has given rise to speculations, but Nair seemed less interested to opine. “NSS would not give any opinion over the choice of the new minister as the UDF never gave importance to its opinions,” said Nair.
Ganesh Kumar, who is from the Nair community, could be replaced by someone from an upper caste to maintain the caste formula of the Cabinet.
Sivadasan Nair from the A group is also a probable candidate. Nevertheless, Chandy is fortunate that none of the allies of the UDF have openly staked a claim to the post. R Balakrishna Pillai, the chairman of Kerala Congress B and father of K B Ganesh Kumar, to the solace of Chandy, openly declared that his party wanted the Congress to hold the portfolios. “We do not want to give the post to any of the allies,” Pillai told The Sunday Standard.
It is these group and caste interests that has put Chandy in a dilemma over the choice of the new candidates as comprising on both would pave way for new troubles. Sources said that there are chances of splitting the portfolios held by Ganesh, and to entrust the three to separate ministers of different groups in the party rather than with one and this could also do away with the group interests.
Meanwhile the CPI(M) was not that much aggressive to deal with the allegations on Ganesh and the Opposition was contend with an uproar in the Assembly and two days’ boycott. Sources said that CPI(M) is not in a hurry to bring down the government and the party is concentrating to make the climate suitable for the return of K R Gowri Amma and M V Raghavan two icons of party who stand expelled. “The CPI(M) might have taken a stand to let the UDF reach its worst state by itself and to face the election after that. Bringing down the government at present would not be useful. Also if the government falls now handling V S Achuthanadan would be a big task. So the party must be waiting for the most appropriate time,” said M N Pierson, political thinker and critic of the CPI(M).
The Sunday Standard