Chennithala, others oppose Chandy’s move

Old habits die hard. After a brief lull, group rivalry in the Congress in Kerala has flared up with renewed vigour.

The proximate cause for intensification of the infighting is Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s determined move to effect the expansion of his Cabinet. Chandy’s deft move to consolidate his position in the party has been challenged by none other than his old rival Ramesh Chennithala, who is now the State Home Minister.

The reasons for Chennithala’s opposition to the Cabinet expansion move are not difficult to divine. If the CM goes ahead with the expansion, a minister belonging to the Vishala I group headed by Chennithala will have to be dropped. That is the reason why Chennithala vehemently opposes Chandy’s game plan. So worked up is the I group and Chennithala over the matter that he is leaving for Delhi to discuss the matter with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The idea is to impress upon the Congress president that there is absolutely no need for a cabint expansion right now.
Of course, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has his own compulsions for going in for the cabinet expansion. First and foremost, the CM is under intense pressure from Kerala Congress (B) chief R. Balakrishna Pillai to reinduct his son and KC(B)’s lone MLA, K. B. Ganesh Kumar.  In fact, Pillai has set June 9 as the deadline for inducting Ganesh into the State Cabinet. If the CM fails to oblige him, Pillai has threatened to reveal the contents of a letter purportedly written by the prime accused in the solar scam, Saritah Nair, which could prove embarrassing for the CM. But Pillai’s blackmail tactics only seem to have steeled Chandy’s resolve not to take Ganesh back into the Cabinet in the immediate future.

It may be mentioned that the Chief Minister had succeeded in getting the nod from the High Command for cabinet expansion. But the High command had set a rider: it should be done only through a consensus in the state party. And evolving a consensus in the matter is extremely difficult as the Vishala I group led by Ramesh Chennithala is in no mood to yield a berth to accommodate Ganesh Kumar.

Obviously, the CM’s calculation that he could have his way in the matter in the wake of the reasonably good performance of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in the Lok Sabha elections has gone awry. Chandy will need to delve deep into his persuasive skill to overcome the stiff opposition from the rival group in the Congress. And that is not going to be easy. 

Adding to the Chief Minister’s discomfiture is the tough stance adopted by KPCC president V. M. Sudheeran in the matter. Sudheeran is credited with the view that the cabinet expansion plan has not been discussed in the party forum. The KPCC chief admits that cabinet expansion is the prerogative of the CM. But in the same breath, he has also made it abundantly clear that a decision cannot be taken without the matter being discussed in the party forum. An unavoidable corollary of the 
CM’s unseemly hurry to effect expansion of his cabinet could be a fresh impetus to the group rivalry, which had been lying dormant since Sudheeran took over as the KPCC president. It is clear turbulent days are ahead for the Congress in Kerala. IPA
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