Chandy, Congress in tight spot in Kerala

Congress and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have conceded to the demand of Indian Union Muslim League for a fifth ministerial berth in UDF government.

Thiruvananthapuram: By conceding to the demand of Indian Union Muslim League for a fifth ministerial berth in the Congress-led UDF government, both Congress and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have landed in a tight spot with several of its leaders coming out against the decision.

Though the issue would not immediately in any way affect the 11-month-old government, which has only a wafer thin majority in the Assembly, voices of differences raised by Congress leaders, including Power Minister Arayadan Muhammed, have cast a shadow over the ministry.

According to Congress sources, Chandy and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala would be meeting party central leaders at New Delhi soon to discuss the state affairs.

UDF has 72 members in the 140-strong Assembly and CPI-M-led LDF has 67. One seat is lying vacant following the resignation of CPI-M`s R Selvaraj, the Assembly membership which he won from Neyyatinkara segment in Thiruvananthapuram district.

The discontent brewing up in Congress has come as an embarrassment to UDF as it was riding high on the popularity of Chandy after the impressive win of the UDF candidate at the Assembly bypoll from Piravom constituency last month.

It has become all the more embarrassing as the issue cropped up at a time when the Front was preparing itself to face the crucial bypoll in Neyyatinkara. The Front has extended support to R Selvaraj`s candidature.

Though a long-standing ally of the Congress and second largest partner in the UDF, IUML`s demand for the fifth ministerial position was opposed by sections in Congress fearing it would upset the communal composition of the ministry in which Christians and Muslims outnumber the Hindus.

After a consensus eluded at the KPCC meet held last week, the party leaders held several rounds of discussions with the high command but the latter sent signals that the issue should be resolved at the state level. A decision to allot fifth berth to IUML was finally taken at a UDF meet on April 11.

With the induction of IUML`s Manjalamkuzhi Ali and Anoop Jacob (KC-J), the strength of UDF cabinet has increased to 21, of which 12 are from minority community.

Besides this, the government chief whip and the Deputy Speaker are also from minority community.


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