Congress in a spot in Kerala as allies clamor for more

For the Congress led UDF government in Kerala, winning the elections was the easy part. Five days old, the UDF government is now threatening to be torn into pieces by the pushes and pulls of different ‘groups,’ parties and communal organizations.

The latest controversy has erupted after it was leaked out that the Nair Service Society (NSS), which has a hold over a large chunk of Kerala’s 12% Nair voters, came in the way of veteran leader K Karunakaran’s son Muralidharan ascending to the state council of ministers.

Muralidharan, who belongs to the numerically insignificant ‘Marar’ caste of Kerala (considered ‘upper caste’ like Nairs), has been left out of the council even as 19 of the 21 seats have been filled.

“I haven’t [even] been invited to the swearing in ceremony,” Murali, as he is known, said in rather blunt comments on the process of government formation. “I don’t even know what is going on.”

“Even those who threw my father’s portrait in the drain are in the council [of ministers,]” he said.

Muralidharan, who has often been suspended and kicked out of the Party, is known more for his anti-Congress statements than as a senior Congress-leader.

The Murali episode is the latest controversy to hit the squabble for ministries in Trivandrum.

Yesterday, the biggest ally of the Congress, the Indian Union Muslim League, threw a spanner into the works by announcing the names of five ‘ministers’ from its party. This forced the Congress chief minister Oommen Chandy to come and clarify that according to the scheme worked out between all the constituents of the UDF, the League is eligible only for four seats.

Similarly, the Kerala Congress — a Christian-oriented spin off of the Congress party — lays claim to three slots in the ministry even as it has been allocated only two.

The UDF is trying hard to get the caste arithmetic of the council right. Thanks to the preponderance of the Muslim League and the presence of Christians in the top ministerial positions — including that of the CM — Congress is trying hard to appear caste-neutral.

Most of the Hindu upper caste (a traditional Congress base) leaders have not been included in the council thanks to the relentless demands from allies. Besides Muralidharan, G Karthikeyan and Ramesh Chennithala — the tallest Nair Congress leaders — are not part of the council.

In contrast, out of the 19 prospective ministers, 5 are from just one district, Malappuram.

Out of the 72 seats won by the alliance, Congress won 38 (out of 87 contested), Muslim League won 20 out of 24 and ‘Mani Congress’ won 9 out of 15.