Thiruvananthapuram | The crisis in ruling Congress-led UDF in Kerala over the government Chief Whip row continued today with hectic parleys between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other Front leaders failing to arrive at a consensus and deferring a decision on the issue to tomorrow.
The coalition has been rocked by the issue for the past one week, after Kerala Congress (M), the third largest partner in UDF, demanded that its dissident leader P C George be removed from the post of government chief whip.
Chandy, who had announced on April 2 that a decision on the matter would be evolved today, held several rounds of talks with Finance Minister K M Mani, who is also KC-M supremo, Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala but failed to reach a meeting point on the matter.
Chandy and his cabinet colleagues, except Mani, also held separate talks with George to sort out his differences with the KC-M leader.
However, Mani stuck to his demand for George’s removal from the chief whip post. On the other hand, George wanted the KC-M to oust him so that he could revive his faction Kerala Congress (Secular) and continue to be a part of UDF as a separate partner, without attracting anti-defection law.
Mani was not in favour of keeping George in the Front as a separate party. He wanted George to continue in the party by accepting a ‘small punishment’. Talking to reporters after the meeting, Chandy said talks were held and a decision would be announced tomorrow as further talks were necessary.
Echoing the same sentiments, Chennithala said further talks were necessary and a final decision was deferred.
Emerging from the talks, George made his intention clear that he had made only one demand that he should be expelled from the party so that he could form a separate entity.
He alleged that Mani was trying to threaten him with the provisions of anti-defection law. George also said he wanted to contiune as a UDF mla.
KC-M had submitted a letter to Chandy to remove George, also the Vice Chairman of the party, from the chief whip post a few days ago following differences with him.
The party was irked with George after he made several public remarks against Mani, facing bribery charges in the bar license scam, after he presented the budget on March 13.
Eight KC(M) legislators headed by Mani sought the removal of the Poonjar MLA from the post of government chief whip and bar him from attending the liaison committee meeting of UDF.
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau had recently registered a case against Mani in connection with the charge of having accepted bribe from bar owners to renew liquor licences. George had stated that Mani should have resigned when the controversy erupted last November.
UDF’s efforts to bring about a truce between the two leaders is mainly prompted by considerations of civic polls this year and the assembly polls next year. Also the Front, which has only a wafer-thin majority in the Assembly, cannot afford to lose the support of even a single MLA. Significantly, the Rajya Sabha polls in the state for the three seats that fall vacant is scheduled for April 20.
As per the available strength, UDF could win two seats and LDF one. So, it is important for the ruling Front not to disturb the present legislative arithmetic.
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