The Congress is less worried about the desire of the Left Front to unseat it than two constituents of its own coalition patchwork who are seeking a prized position—a role at the Centre. Caught in the middle is Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who is grimly hanging on to his position in the face of political machinations and judicial disapproval.
The man who professes to never carrying a cell phone is refusing to take the call on demands of its allies’ opportunism. However, his weakened position regarding the Solar Scam has given enough excuses for the UDF’s dominant partners—the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Kerala Congress (M) to flex their muscles. Both aim for a berth in the Union Cabinet, as an additional pound of flesh. The spotlight briefly fell on KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala, who turned down the post of deputy chief minister as a consequence of inter-party strife, becoming a new source of worry for the Congress. In the middle of the crisis, the LDF had sought to wean K M Mani of Kerala Congress (M) away from the UDF in an effort to topple the government and form its own government in the state.
Mani was offered the job of deputy CM in the new coalition. But as the discussion reached nowhere as LDF decided it would be better to wait and watch until the Congress finished itself politically. The Congress is in such disarray that it has not been even able to exploit the discomfiture of Pinarayi Vijayan—the CPI(M)’s next CM candidate—in the Lavlin scam.
Mani is taking the advantage of the scam fallout to reaffirm his demand for a berth in the Union Cabinet for his son. “Mani’s greatest wish is to make his son Jose K Mani a Union minister. He is taking maximum advantage of the present situation to increase pressure on the Congress. The IUML that has also been eyeing the deputy CM’s post has started its attempts to get one more seat allotted in the coming Lok Sabha election. It would be tough for Chandy to tackle it,” said sources.
Mani’s ambition does not end with berth for his son in the Union ministry. Like the IUML he is also aiming for an additional seat in the Lok Sabha election. Both the IUML and Kerala Congress (M) have ample negotiation powers—Mani’s Congress with nine MLAs and IUML with 2o, strongly believe that they deserve more from the coalition.
The Congress, however, had been holding the view that a Cabinet berth for a party with only one member in the Lok Sabha is an improbable demand and is not ready to change stand.
Meanwhile, the IUML is as stern as Mani on its demands. While Mani is eyeing the Idukki constituency, the IUML will, most probably seek a ticket away from the Congress for the Kasargode Lok Sabha constituency, which has sizeable Muslim votes.
The going does not promises to be easy for the Congress, as the Solar Scam unfolds bringing more discomfiture to Chandy and the party. A Cabinet reshuffle, a decision on the ‘deputy chief minister post’, facing the Lok Sabha elections with a tattered image predict gloomy days ahead for both the Congress and its chief minister.