Chandy set to become Kerala CM, Chennithala opts out

Oommen Chandy
Thiruvananthapuram, May 15: Senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy is set to become the Kerala Chief Minister with KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala today opting out of the race for the top post.

A meeting of the senior party leaders held at the KPCC headquarters here unanimously decided Chandy should lead the United Democratic Front Ministry.

The CLP meeting scheduled here later today will formalise the decision and would be officially announced by AICC observers Mohsina Kidwai and Madhusdan Mistry.

Chandy, elected for the 10th consecutive time from his pocket borrow puthupally in Kottayam District, will assume office along with leaders of some of the allies later this week, party sources said.

Though Chennnithala had earlier conveyed signals that he was interested in the top job, Chandy's seniority, adminstrative experience and skills to manage the coalition made him the unanimous choice.

Talking to reporters, Chenithala said he would not be part of the government but would concentrate on keeping the party strong and united in his capacity as the KPCC President.

"My opinion is that Oommen Chandy should be unanimously elected as the leader in the CLP meet. There will not be a contest for the post," Chennithala, who won from Harippad, said.

A former chief minister, 67-year-old Chandy also enjoys the confidence of the front partners, which is crucial in running the government which commands only a wafer-thin majority of two seats above the half-way mark in the 140-member House.

After the CLP meet, the UDF leaders will hold a session to formally endorse the Congress leader as head of the coalition, which won 72 seats to unseat LDF (68 seats) from power.

The cabinet would be expanded later after discussions among the partners about the number of berths and portfolios to be shared.

Since it is important for the front to strike an image of a cohesive and efficient set up despite the thin majority it enjoys, the thinking in the UDF is that it would be unwise for the coalition to delay the ministry formation.

The indications are that in the 20-member ministry, the lead partner Congress would get 10 berths including that of the Chief Minister.

The second largest component would be given four berths and the Kerala Congress (M) three. Single-MLA constituents Kerala Congress(Jacob),Kerala Congress (B) and RSP (B) would also be accommodated in the cabinet since their support is also vital for the survival of the ministry.

Outgoing chief minister and CPI(M) stalwart V S Achuthanandan resigned yesterday, accepting the verdict.


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