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Why A K Antony will be kingmaker in Kerala

March 04, 2011 19:36 IST

The fight for chief ministership begins in Congress after IB reports of UDF victory in Kerala, report Arun Lakshman. 

The fight for chief ministership in the next United Democratic Front government has begun in the Congress party, albeit in a subtle and subdued way. The recent report of the Intelligence Bureau that the Congress-led UDF would win around eighty five seats and head the ruling coalation has set the ball rolling in the Congress for the post of chief minister.

While the party cadres root for leader of the opposition Oomen Chandy to be given a second term as he had got just one and half years to rule, there are many other contenders.

Sources close to the power centres of the Congress are of the opinion that the position taken by the Union Defence Minister A K Antony would be crucial.

While Antony and Oomen Chandy were close friends and Chandy was even instrumental in getting Antony married, of late the equations between the two have soured with Antony believing that it was at Chandy's behest that he had to face an ignonimous exit from the Kerala chief minister's post after the Parliamentary elections in 2004.

Political observers vouch that Antony is a person who neither forgives or forgets. Highly placed sources in the Congress said that he has vowed that Chandy would never be the CM again.

The first indication of this has come from his recent statement that more than 40 percent of the party tickets should be given to freash faces in the upcoming elections.This is  a message to Chandy loyalists in the party like K C Joseph, K Babu, Aryadan Mohammed and M M Hassan that he has not forgotten what they had done to him. It may be recalled that the Congress President Sonia Gandhi was forced to remove Antony after the majority of legislatures signed a memorandum on the stand taken by Antony against the minorities and saying that this was the reason for the drubbing the UDF in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

The names being circulated amongst senior leaders of the state party as also among the coalition partners are V M Sudheeran, Ramesh Chennithala, Chandy and K Sankaranarayanan.

Antony knows for certain that Sudheeran, who enjoys the support of the middle-class, will not be acceptable to the coalition partners and is ruled out. Antony is also contemplating on circulating the theory that in Kerala the chief minister's post has generally been rotated among the Christian community, Hindu Nairs and Ezhavas. A Muslim chief minister is not possible at the moment.

It was in 1996 E K Nayanar, a Nair by caste became CM. Nayanar was followed by Antony, a Roman Catholic and Oomen Chandy, an Orthodox Christian. In 2006, V S Achuthanandan, an Ezhava became CM. This fact lends credence to the rotation theory favouring a Nair to become CM. 

Current Governor of Maharashtra K Sankaranarayanan is also in the running for the post of CM

It may also be recalled that K C Venugopal was made the Union minister of state for power. Antony is his mentor.

The point to note is that Antony will put the theory that both Chennithala and Venugopal are Nairs and that both are from the reformist group in the Congress in Kerala. Antony could argue that if a 'reformist' Nair is a Union minister then how can a Nair from the same group become the chief minister? This is what exactly being decoded by the powerful Nair Service Society which has already disowned the ministerial berth given to Venugopal.

In this context K Sankaranarayanan, the veteran Congress leader who is a close associate of Antony, emerges as a logical choice. Sankaranarayanan was the longest serving UDF convener and was the finance minister in the Antony cabinet before Antony was unceremoniously pushed out.

Sankaranarayanan was first appointed as the Governor of Nagaland, then he was moved to Jharkhand when the state was under President's Rule and now he is the head of the most powerful state of the country, Maharashtra.

Antony is also known for his timing and until when he is sure of the next step his fingers will remain crossed and lips will be sealed. 

With the politics of Kerala heating up, Antony will be king-maker.

Arun Lakshman in Thiruvananthapuram