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Kerala: Chandy's boat sails in troubled waters

Monday May 23, 2011 07:51:53 PM, Sanu George, IANS

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Thiruvananthapuram: It has not been smooth sailing into power for Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, 67. The ruling United Democratic Front's (UDF) poll majority is wafer thin, only one more than the required minimum.

Usually, after every assembly election in the state, the ruling front - either the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) or the Congress led UDF - always get booted out by a huge margin.

That did not happen this time. The winner's majority is the thinnest in Kerala's electoral history.

The results of the April 13 assembly polls announced on May 13 sent shockwaves in the UDF camp. It just about managed to get 72 seats in the 140-member assembly while the LDF won 68.

In the final count, the Congress won 38 seats, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) 20, Kerala Congress (Mani) four, Socialist Janata Democratic Party two, Kerala Congress (Jacob), RSP (B) and Kerala Congress (Pillai) one each.

And on the opposition side, never before has the Kerala assembly seen such a composition of stalwarts, mostly from the CPI-M and they will be breathing down Chandy's neck when the assembly session begins.

Former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who is now the leader of the opposition, and his high flying colleagues like Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, M.A. Baby, Thomas Issac, A.K. Balan, P.K. Gurudasan, G. Sudhakaran and Elamaram Kareem will be on the opposition benches.

The first acid test of selecting Chandy's cabinet does not appear to have gone very well. Several feathers have been ruffled within the Congress as well as among allies.

After hours of talks, discussions and debates Chandy has managed to get nine of his party colleagues into his cabinet.

Those who could not make it from the list includes state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala, V.D. Sateeshan and K. Muraleedharan.

Those who were left out includes former ministers G. Karthikeyan and Sakthan Nadar.

Chandy's biggest headache would be six-time legislator P.C. George of the Kerala Congress (Mani), who was hoping against hope that this time he would be a minister for the first time.

But it has not happened yet and it is certain that George would be giving sleepless nights not only to the chief minister but also to his precariously positioned government.

Another issue that Chandy could be facing is K.M. Mani handling the powerful finance portfolio. Frequent tiffs between the diehard strongman of the Kerala Congress (M) and other allies could be a permanent irritant.

The first show of strength between the rival fronts is likely to be over the election of the assembly speaker.

It could be a tough ask for Chandy and also the speaker to see that not a single ruling front legislator goes absent from the proceedings on the floor of the house because that could be trouble with the government's wafer-thin majority.

Chandy, known for taking a tough and uncompromising stand when needed, will have to bring out all his experience of 40 years as a legislator to see that his boat sails smooth.

All the while the opposition Left Front will be waiting to rock the boat at every given opportunity.

(Sanu George can be contacted at





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