Congress gov tries hard to get caste arithmetic right in Kerala

The Congress leadership, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to be putting tremendous pressure on discontented state party president Ramesh Chennithala to join the government under Oommen Chandy.

According to sources, the Congress led UDF government is keen to be seen as a broad-based government and not one dominated by the minorities. The current make-up, with 4-5 ministers from the Muslim League, 3 from Kerala Congress (tilted towards Christians) and a Christian chief minister, is seen to be lacking in representation from Congress’ traditional upper caste Hindu vote-base.

K Muralidharan, the son of K Karunakaran — the erstwhile ‘Hindu’ leader of Congress who was crucial in consolidating the Congress’ Hindu vote bank — too is learnt to have been kept out of the ministry. Muralidharan, who has been in and out of the Congress, is seen as a ‘destabilizing’ influence and a loose canon by senior party leaders.

Oommen Chandy, the chief minister, is currently holding talks with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is also learnt to have favored Ramesh Chennithala — the strongest ‘Hindu’ leader in the Congress in Kerala — joining the ministry.

Chennithala, whose allies tried hard to get him the CM’s chair in the name of arresting the decline of Congress’ popularity among Hindus, has steadfastly refused to be part of a government led by someone else. “I will support it from outside.. and remain in the party,” he said, after Sonia Gandhi made it clear that she favored Chandy.

Congress is also trying to get another Nair leader G Karthikeyan to join the council of ministers. Out of the 21 minister slots, only 9 more are left to be filled by Congress. Five slots have gone to the heads of the five non-Congress constituents of the government, one to Chandy himself, while five are reserved for junior leaders from the Muslim League and Kerala Congress.

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