Thiruvananthapuram: Congress legislator PK Jayalekshmi will be Kerala`s first-ever minister from the tribal community while the late Congress leader K Karunakaran`s son, K Muraleedharan, has been left out of the list of new ministers Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced Saturday.
The new ministers, to be sworn in Monday, include nine of the Congress, three from the Indian Union Muslim League and one from the Kerala Congress (Mani).
"At the moment, we will have a 20-member cabinet and that is what has been decided as of now. It is true that many Congress legislators who are fit to be ministers have not been accommodated due to restrictions on the size of the cabinet," Chandy told reporters here.
The IUML is yet to announce its three ministers and the party is now demanding a fifth ministerial berth after it found it difficult to satisfy the long list of its aspirants.
The list of Congress ministers includes a mix of youth and experience, but it was not short of surprise that Muraleedharan and young legislator VD Sateeshan, who was the star performer of the Congress party in the assembly from 2006-11, have been left out.
Veteran Congress legislator and former minister G Karthikeyan also does not figure in the list, and the glimmer of hope for both these leaders is that one of them is likely to become the speaker, according to party sources.
The new ministers include veteran Aryadan Mohammed, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, AP Anil Kumar, Adoor Prakash (all of whom were ministers in the previous Chandy cabinet), and first-time ministers K Babu, CN Balakrishnan, KC Joseph, VS Sivakumar besides Jayalekshmi.
"It is not true that various social groups have pressurised us. Don`t you know that the Congress party is one which gives its ears to all those who have to say something but that does not mean we are amenable to pressure," said Chandy.
Chandy, along with leaders of the six allies of the United Democratic Front (UDF), was sworn in here last Wednesday.
Jayalekhsmi is the Congress legislator from Mananthavady in Waynad district and is the only woman in the 38-member Congress legislature party.
Through her nomination, Chandy has been able to satisfy the quota of a women in his cabinet and make the Scheduled Tribe community also happy.
Jayalekshmi, from the Kurichiya tribe, is a graduate with a diploma in computers and is believed to have been handpicked by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi during his candidate-scouting exercise prior to the just-concluded assembly elections.
As the news reached her home town in Mananthavady in the hilly Wayanad districts, the happiness of her family members, friends and well wishers knew no bounds.
"I am really happy that my daughter has been made a minister," said her father.
As per the law, the Kerala cabinet can have a maximum of 21 ministers, including the chief minister. With the Kerala Congress (Mani) and the IUML demanding one more post each, the final decision would be taken Sunday when Chandy meets the top IUML leaders here.
"Speaker, deputy speaker will be picked at a later stage. The new ministers will be sworn in on May 23 (Monday) and at the cabinet meeting, the decision to convene the assembly would be decided and then we will think of the names for these posts," said Chandy.