Allies meet Sonia Gandhi, suggest Ramesh Chennithala be made a minister
Thiruvananthapuram: The now-on and now-off talk of accommodating KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala in the UDF ministry in Kerala has once again gained currency with key partners putting across this as an option to strengthen the Front ahead of Lok Sabha polls during their meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.During their interaction with Gandhi separately on Sunday night, leaders of Indian Union Muslim League and Kerala Congress (Mani) focused on the need to refurbish the UDF's image dented by issues like the solar scam and virulent campaign unleashed by CPI(M)-led LDF against the Oommen Chandy government. Most of the Congress leaders sounded sceptical about drastic changes being made in the ministry and party set-up before Parliament elections, but they respected the allies' sentiments for strengthening unity and improving the image of the coalition.According to UDF sources, the partners told Gandhi that despite its image crisis, the UDF was still strong enough to make handsome gains if they fought the polls unitedly by sorting out internal differences.In 2009, the UDF lifted 15 of the 20 seats in the state, leaving five to the LDF and the BJP drew a blank.They said it was crucial that as lead partner, Congress bridge its internal divide between factions loyal to Chandy and Chennithala and possible way out is inducting the KPCC president in the Cabinet with an important portfolio.The leaders made it clear to Gandhi that it should not be interpreted as intervention in the internal affairs of her party and any change being made in the ministry should be by taking Chandy into total confidence.A couple of months back, there was strong speculation about Chennithala being given a Cabinet berth, followed by a revamp of the Cabinet and party set-up in the state.The Congress' thinking was that this would not only promote unity in the party, but also be a "communally balancing act" if a leader like Chennithala, belonging to the majority community, was brought in the ministry.The plan, however, got waylaid over the portfolio to be given to him and the high command later signalled the state unit to maintain status quo till the elections are over.On his part, Chennithala had time and again made it clear that he was comfortable as KPCC chief but would abide by whatever decision the high command takes.He also voiced resentment at attempts to bracket him with a particular community, holding that he is a firm secularist and stood staunchly by the party's time-tested ideals.
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