Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Sunday expanded his Cabinet, inducting 15 more ministers, a team combining experience and young blood, in a bid to revive the fortunes of the Congress-led United Democratic Front Government ahead of the next state assembly elections in less than two years.
Despite a 'boycott' by senior leader K Karunakaran and his son Muraleedharan, irked by rejection of their proposals in the selection of ministers, a jubilant mood pervaded the Raj Bhavan with UDF supporters from different parts of the state joining the leaders of Congress and its coalition partners.
Having installed the 20-member ministry, Chandy chose to hold Home, Non-Resident Keralite Affairs and Information, allocating Finance and Excise to senior party colleague Vakkom Purushothaman and Electricity to Aryadan Mohammed.
UDF partners Muslim League, Kerala Congress-M,Janadhipathya Samrakshana Samiti (JSS), RSP-B and CMP retained the same portfolios they held in the Antony ministry. The League, however, changed two of its four nominees.
The Congress got two additional Cabinet berths with the exclusion of the KC-B and KC-J from the ministry.
Other portfolios held by the Congress included Food and Civil Supplies (Adoor Prakash), Health (K K Ramachandran), Water Resources (Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan), Forests (K P Viswanathan), Tourism (K C Venugopal), Fisheries, Sports (Dominic Presentation), Transport (N Sakthan) and Backward Classes and SC/ST Welfare (A P Anil Kumar).
Chandy said the portfolios of UDF partners were not changed as the present government did not have much time to waste on controversies and discussions.
On complaints from Congress workers against handling of certain portfolios by partners of the United Democratic Front, he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the government would see that such complaints were not repeated.
Chandy said he had expressed his desire not to take up an important portfolio for himself to get more freedom to interact with people, but could not do so due to compulsions.
Asked about K Karunakaran's comments against the choice of the new team of ministers, Chandy said he had met the senior leader today and explained the situation to him.
On KC-J leader T M Jacob's statement that his non-inclusion in the ministry was the result of a conspiracy, he said it was the Congress high command which decided to drop KC-J and KC-B from the ministry on the basis of certain complaints received against the parties.
He said the issue involving the two parties was not a closed chapter. It could be discussed in the Front with an open mind.
The chief minister wanted the media to refrain from negative reporting. The government would soon convene a meeting of newspaper editors and chief executives of the electronic media, he added.