Jacob's death: UDF's majority down in Kerala House

Thiruvananthapuram: Apart from the loss of a trusted partner and able administrator, the untimely demise of Kerala Congress (J) leader and Food Minister TM Jacob has further narrowed the wafer-thin majority of the ruling Congress-led UDF in Kerala Assembly to 71 in the 140-member House.

According to political observers, it would be a tightrope walk for the government in the Assembly if the by-election to the Piravom Assembly segment held by Jacob gets delayed.

Jacob, who had been hospitalised for some time, died of multiple organ failure on Sunday.

Jacob's death has come at a tough time for the Oommen Chandy government which has been under attack from the CPI(M) -led LDF Opposition in the Assembly.

Since last week, the LDF has declared a virtual war on the government over a host of issues like the lascivious diatribe of Forest Minister K B Ganesh Kumar against Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan and government Chief Whip P C George's alleged casteist remarks against CPI(M) MLA AK Balan.

To the relief of the ruling front, the current session of the Assembly would end this week after passing the Finance and Appropriation Bill.

It means that if the government wishes, it could wait for upto six months for the next session of the House.

In the Assembly polls held in April 2011, the UDF had managed to wrest power from the LDF with a slim majority of just 2 seats above the half-way mark of 70. The elected strength of the UDF includes the Speaker, a Congress nominee.

Though the nominated Anglo Indian member takes the UDF tally to 73, he would not be able to vote in the event of a no trust motion.

UDF's 72 seats was the poorest tally scored by the winner in the last three decades in Kerala, which has a reputation of alternating between the UDF and the LDF every five years.

Jacob's victory margin over his LDF rival in the Piravom seat was just 157 votes.

All these factors, according to observers, make the by-poll victory in Piravom vital for the UDF.

Local media is rife with the speculation that a kin of Jacob would be considered by the UDF as a contestant for the Piravom seat in view of the high stakes involved and local factors like community considerations.

Jacob, who belonged to the Jacobite faction of the Malankara Syrian Church, had often been seen as the UDF's strongest link with the community establishment, which has been at loggerheads with the Orthodox faction of the church for long.