Thiruvananthapuram: In a significant political move ahead of Lok Sabha polls, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala today joined the Oommen Chandy-led UDF Government and was given key Home portfolio.
Chennithala`s induction is seen as an exercise to boost the UDF`s poll prospects by seeking to set right factional and community equations in the ruling coalition led by the Congress.
Governor Nikhil Kumar administered the oath of office and secrecy to 57-year-old Chennithala at the Raj Bhavan.
In a limited shuffling of portfolios of the Congress nominees in the cabinet, Thiruvananchur Radhakrishnan, who held the Home, was given Forest, handled by K B Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B) before he was forced to quit at the height of a domestic dispute in April last year.
Radhakrishnan was also given Transport, which was held by Power Minister Aryadan Muhammad, also from the Congress.
Induction of Chennithala, representing Harippad in Alappuzha district in the assembly, marked the culmination of fast-paced developments on the New Year eve following the high command direction to the state unit of the party.
He will continue as KPCC President till the conclusion of organisational and ministerial reshuffle after the budget session of the Assembly in February, party sources said.
There had been a strong view in the Congress in the state that making Chennithala a minister will help Congress foster unity within and firm up its support base among the majority community in general and the Nair community in particular to which he belongs to.
Influential Nair outfit NSS in the past had slammed the UDF accusing the coalition leadership of having breached its poll-eve promise of giving Chennithala a "key position" in the cabinet, in which nominees from Christian and Muslim communities outnumber those from various Hindu sections.
Chennithala, however, resented his being branded with any particular community or group in the party.
Heading the party in the state for nine years and reputed for organisational skills, Chennithala is becoming a Minister after a gap of nearly 27 years.
His first brief ministerial stint was in 1986 when his one-time mentor K Karunakaran made him Rural Development Minister bypassing many a senior, which marked a turning point in his career.
Since then, he rose to become national president of the Youth Congress being handpicked by late Rajiv Gandhi, which helped him to strike strong bonds with the high command on account of his unflinching loyalty to the Gandhi-Nehru family.
In 1989, Chennithala resigned from the assembly and won in the Lok Sabha polls from Mavelikkara. From then on he had never looked back, getting re-elected to Lok Sabha in 1991, 1996 and 1999 and also serving as AICC Secretary.