Will Kerala find a berth in Modi cabinet?
Will Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi oblige Kerala is the question that's doing the rounds when he will pick his cabinet members.
With Modi coming to power after a stunning victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the cabinet formation has become a closely guarded topic and Gujarat Bhavan in Delhi has become out of bounds for even senior BJP leaders, as Modi is busy selecting his team.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president V. Muraleedharan appeared uninterested whenever the question was asked to him about Kerala's representation in cabinet this time.
"I do not know how it can be possible, when (BJP in) Kerala does not have a single member of parliament (in both the houses). When BJP leader O. Rajagopal was inducted into the A.B. Vajpayee government (1999-04), he was already a Rajya Sabha member. This time there is none," said Muraleedharan.
Rajagopal, incidentally, gave Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor a run for his money and lost to him by a margin of 15,470 votes in the recently concluded election.
He felt that since Kerala state BJP did not send anyone to parliament, it is unfair to ask for a ministerial berth from the state.
"The BJP is seen as an untouchable party in Kerala. Then why should it be given a berth? I doubt if anyone from Kerala would be inducted," said Rajagopal.
In the outgoing union cabinet, Kerala had its highest ever representation of eight ministers, including two cabinet berths and six ministers of state.
Kerala did not send a single Congress leader to the Lok Sabha in the 2004 polls as the party was a wash-out, the Left winning 18, and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) (an ally of the Congress) and IFDP, an ally of the NDA, taking one seat each.
But Pprime Minister Manmohan Singh then gave Congress leader Vayalar Ravi, who was also a Rajya Sabha member, a cabinet berth, and IUML's lone Lok Sabha member E. Ahamed, a state minister post.
In 2006, Manmohan Singh inducted Congress leader A.K. Antony as the defence minister, a post he held on till Manmohan Singh resigned last week.
The state unit of the BJP is a divided house and has various factions led by leaders like Muraleedharan, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai and P.K. Krishna Das, according to sources.
Former bureaucrat and Left-supported legislator K.J. Alphonse, who joined the BJP in 2011 and was made a national executive member, is another person who stands a good chance to get a ministerial berth, given his clean image and his performance as Delhi Development Authority commissioner when he demolished illegal buildings.
Given the BJP factionalism, however, none wants the other faction to get an upper hand and hence all eyes are on Modi, if he would pick anyone from Kerala.
(Posted on 25-05-2014)