Troubles appear in Kerala’s ruling front

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on May 22, 2011

Troubles have begun to erupt in the Congress-led UDF coalition of Kerala, which has come to power after a gap of five years with a slender majority, even before the formation of its full Cabinet. The Congress has been pushed to a difficult situation as its coalition partners are competing among themselves for more berths in the Ministry.

Muslim League, the second largest partner of the front, on Sunday announced a list of its five nominees to the Cabinet violating the understanding in the UDF that it would have only four representatives. Observers said that the announcement also meant that the League wanted to enforce its arbitrary decisions on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the Congress.

The League’s move came just when 13 Ministers of the UDF were to be sworn in on Monday, completing the formation of the Cabinet whose strength was proposed to be 20. The strength of the Cabinet would have to be 21 if the five names proposed by the League were to be included. Chandy and legislature leaders of six constituents had taken oath as Ministers on May 18.

KM Mani of the Kerala Congress (M), third largest front partner, expressed displeasure at the announcement by saying that he was unaware of the circumstances in which the League had made it. Mani’s party had been allotted two Cabinet berths while it had demanded three. The League announcement is seen as s strategy to pre-empt pressures from the Kerala Congress (M).

Analysts saw Sunday’s developments as the first signs of an implosion waiting to happen in the UDF, which has come to power with 72 seats in the 140-member House, just two above the half-way mark. They said that moves like that of the Muslim League could affect the unity of the UDF, an occasion the Left with 68 seats is waiting to cash in on.

The League announcement has irritated certain top Congress leaders also. “They have not merely stated the names of their nominees. They even arbitrarily announced the portfolios that these men would handle. Allocation and announcement of portfolios are the prerogatives of the Chief Minister,” said a senior Congress leader.

The League’s statement came a day after Chandy clearly said on Saturday that the remaining members of the 20-man Cabinet would take oath on Monday and any outstanding issue would be discussed later. He particularly said that the decision on the selection of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Affairs minister would be taken only after Monday’s ceremony.

However, the League decided not to wait till then. Its State president Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal and general secretary PK Kunhalikutty, who was sworn in Minister on May 18, read out the list of its four other proposed Ministers before newsmen in Thiruvananthapuram. This list included the Minister-designate to handle the Parliamentary Affairs portfolio.

The names in the list were those of MK Muneer (Social Welfare and Panchayats), PK Abdu Rabb (Education), Ibrahim Kunju (Public Works) and former Left MLA Manjalamkuzhi Ali (Parliamentary Affairs). Kunhalikutty would handle the Industries, IT and Urban Affairs portfolio, they said.

Mani of the Kerala Congress (M), which had asked for the post of Parliamentary Affairs minister for its vice-chairman PC George, indicated that the League announcement was against the understanding in the UDF. Mani’s party had asked for three Cabinet berths but was allowed only two. George himself had bargained for a ministerial position or that of the Speaker.

Meanwhile, bickering continued inside the Congress over the “sharing” of the ten Cabinet berths allocated to it among the groups and on the basis community consideration. Chandy’s A- had taken six of the ten positions while the I-group of State party chief Ramesh Chennithala was given four positions disregarding seniority in the party and proven efficiency in the Assembly.

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