Thiruvananthapuram, March 26 (IANS) Trouble is brewing in Kerala's ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) as two of the coalition partners are putting pressure for a ministerial berth.
While the Congress party is playing its cards close to its chest, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has taken up the issue with the party high command in Delhi.
Kerala can have a cabinet strength of 21, including the chief minister. Since after being sworn in, Chandy has set aside one cabinet berth. The second largest ally of the UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has been given four berths and was promised a fifth.
When discussion for the fifth berth of the IUML was going on, a problem arose with the passing away of veteran UDF leader and chairman of the Kerala Congress (Jacob) party, T.M. Jacob, who was holding the food and civil supplies portfolio.
Jacob passed away in October last year and his 34-year-old son Anup Jacob last week won from the seat of his father with a thumping majority.
While seniors in the Chandy cabinet are of the view that since Anup is a first time legislator with no experience, he should not be given a heavyweight portfolio which was handled by his father, a veteran and seasoned politician.
However, chairman of Anup's party, Johnny Nellore told reporters Monday: 'All the UDF leaders had told that if Anup is elected, he will not only be made a minister but also given the portfolio which his father handled. Our party is having a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) and the official decision requesting the UDF to swear in Anup at the earliest would be made.'
Senior IUML member of parliament, E.T. Mohammed Basheer, told the media that they have been promised a fifth cabinet berth.
'A fifth berth has been promised to us, and we want that to happen when Anup Jacob is going to be sworn in. The time is absolutely correct now for that to happen. We are sure that there is not going to be anymore delay,' said Basheer.
Chandy and the Congress party are not keen to offer a fifth berth to the IUML because they want to leave one vacant in case a small party from the opposition Left combine decides to join the UDF bandwagon.
In the Left coalition, there are small parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (two legislators) besides two independent legislators.
Currently, with one seat vacant in the 140-member assembly, the UDF has 72 seats and the LDF 67. The by-election to the Neyyatinkara assembly constituency is expected to be announced shortly. Chandy appears to be caught between the devil and the deep sea because a wrong move could cost him dear.
Currently in Delhi, Chandy evaded questions on the ministership confusion and remarked that there will always be political discussions required to be held.
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