Congress state president Ramesh Chennithala would join the Oommen Chandy government on Wednesday in a pre-poll bid to indulge the upper class Hindu Nair community. Chennithala, a Nair, is slated to get Home, replacing Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, a Nair close to Chandy.
Chennithala’s cabinet entry has been in the air for several months but a decision was delayed as he was reluctant to accept any portfolio other than the home department. Chandy refused to part with home, held by his loyalist. Now, as the second-in-command in the cabinet, Chennithala would be breathing down his rival Chandy’s neck.
“Chennithala’s cabinet entry has pending. Last week, the high command gave the final go-ahead. The party high command would decide who should become the state president,” said Chandy.
Nair Service Society, the outfit of Nair community, welcomed the decision with its general secretary Sukumaran Nair saying that an upper class Hindu in a key position in the government would augur well for the Congress. The NSS had insisted that Chennithala should be made a key figure in the government. It was not happy with Radhakrishnan holding Home despite he being a Nair too.
Chennithala, who had repeatedly stated that the post of the party chief was several notches above that of a minister, on Tuesday turned a humble party worker. “I have never been after power. I’m just obeying the directives of party president Sonia Gandhi,” he said.
Indicating that Radhakrishnan would be retained in the cabinet, Chandy said, “Nobody from the cabinet is going out.” Radhakrishnan is likely to get either sports or forest departments, now held by Chandy after K B Ganesh Kumar resigned following cases related to domestic issues.
However, the bid to woo the Nair community has spelled fresh trouble for the UDF. Kerala Congress (B) chairman R Balakrishna Pillai, a director of NSS, said his son Kumar should be taken back as the minister.
“The present changes in the government spell the beginning of the end of the UDF government,” said Pillai, threatening to quit the UDF. After his son quit as minister, Pillai, who was convicted by the Supreme Court in a corruption case, was given cabinet rank as chairman of forward cast development corporation.