Street war’ in Kerala’s Cong, UDF

published on April 15, 2012

The crisis in Kerala’s Congress party and the ruling UDF it leads over the allocation of a fifth Cabinet berth to ally Muslim League and a Portfolio-shuffle by the Chief Minister exploded into an open war on Sunday with leaders of the two parties hurling allegations at each other openly even as complaints of an administrative freeze due to the disputes began coming up.

Addressing his supporters in Malappuram, Congress veteran and State Power Minister Aryadan Muhammad asked the Muslim League not to make it a habit to put pressure on his party for political gains. “No force can destroy the Congress, which has the history of forcing the British out. Why should it then be afraid of some feeble outfits?’ he asked.

PT Thomas, the Congress MP from Idukki, alleged in Kozhikode that conspiracies had been hatched in the Muslim League and the UDF (read Congress) to tarnish the popular image of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the issue of the fifth Minister. He asked the Congress high command to find out the people who were involved in these conspiracies.

Thomas’s statement invited quick, antagonistic reactions from the Congress itself. Its MLA Joseph Vazhakkan asked him not to make irresponsible statements. The Muslim League shot back at Aryadan saying that it did not have to answer his questions as the settlement on the fifth Minister issue was reached at a much higher level.

Veteran Congress leader VM Sudheeran said his party was going through an “extraordinary situation” which necessitated an urgent meeting of the PCC executive even as Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan warned the UDF that it would not be able to remain in power for long in such a complex situation.

At the receiving end of all these is none other than Chief Minister Chandy himself, who is accused of conceding to the Muslim League demand for a fifth Cabinet berth and shuffling of Portfolios of Congress Ministers without discussing the matter even with State Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala.

However, Chandy said in Kochi on Sunday that there was no conspiracy in the Congres against him. “I am getting enough support and cooperation from all levels of the Congress,” he said even as former State Congress president K Muraleedharan formally requested the party high command to take immediate steps to solve the issues related to the fifth Muslim League Minister.

Muslim League’s Manjalamkuzhy Ali, a former Left Independent MLA, was on Thursday last sworn in as the fifth Minister of that party after ten months of wrangling in the UDF. With this, the strength of Ministers from the minorities rose to 12 in the 21-mamber Chandy Cabinet but the League said this was not true and that it had deserved a fifth berth.

On Sunday, Aryadan said, “Some people have become mad” in obvious reference to the Muslim League for its persistence in the demand for a fifth Cabinet berth. He said parties like League need not be taken seriously, asking “Is there any party other than the Congress and CPI(M) in Kerala that can win an election on its own?”

Aryadan, who is said to have already threatened to resign as Minister in protest against the issues of the fifth League Minister and the shuffling of Portfolios (he was given the additional charge of Transports by Chandy), said he would not cling on to power by sacrificing the ideals and interests of his party.

Muslim League activists had taken out a march in Nilambur, Aryadan’s hometown, in the context of the reports that he had told Chandy at a congress meeting that he would be the last Chief Minister of the party if he conceded to the League’s demand for a fifth Cabinet post. “I will continue to express my opinion. I don’t care for Minister’s post,” he said in Malappuram.

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