Thiruvananthapuram, April 15 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala left for Delhi Sunday to take up with the party high command the gifting of a fifth ministerial berth to Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which has set sparks flying in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
The Congress has come under fire from Hindu social groups for bowing to the pressure tactics of IUML, the second biggest ally of the UDF.
The party high command had earlier given a free hand to Chandy to induct the fifth minister and also to shuffle the portfolios of the Congress ministers.
In order to maintain the secular balance in the cabinet that consists of 21 members, Chandy handed over the home portfolio to his trusted lieutant T. Radhakrishnan, who belongs to the Hindu Nair community.
Currently Chandy’s cabinet include six ministers each from the Muslim and Christian communities, which has left the Hindu social groups fuming.
The last time a Congress chief minister allowed the home portfolio to be given to a minister was in 1982 when Karunakaran gave it to Vayalar Ravi.
What came as a surprise was when close aide of Chandy and his senior colleague and Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed went hammer and tongs at the IUML.
Addressing a public meeting, Sunday in his home district in Malappuram, Mohammed said there are only two parties in Kerala which are capable of standing on their own and it is the Congress and CPI-M.
‘Of late we are all hearing public discourses by a section of a party (without naming IUML) about their strength. All I wish to say to them is not to forget what happened in the 2004 assembly polls and the 2009 Lok Sabha polls,’ reminded Mohammed, who was cheered each time he took pot shots at the IUML.
Leader of opposition V.S. Achuthanandan who loses no opportunity to hit at Chandy, said: ‘Chandy has disturbed the secular fabric through this and people are unhappy with the infighting that has begun in the UDF. It is now clear that the life of the Chandy government has been affected,’ Achuthanandan told reporters here Sunday.
Coming to Chandy’s support was Congress Lok Sabha member P.T. Thomas who said there was a ‘conspiracy’ behind the fifth cabinet berth.
Hindus constitute more than 50 percent of Kerala’s population, followed by Muslims with 24 percent and Christians with 23 percent.
Now all eyes are on the manner in which the party high command takes up the issue as the Neyattinkara assembly by-election is expected to be announced any time.