Though it’s well established that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will be the last word when it comes to finalising his cabinet, there is an uneasy calm that prevails in the state capital as a series of meetings with the allies and his top party leaders get underway.
Vijayan created electoral history by retaining power and that too with an increased margin of eight seats when its tally finished one short of 100 in the 140 member Kerala Assembly.
None will dare raise a banter, when it comes to Vijayan’s last word, but hoping against hope are new allies like Kerala Congress (M) who have five legislators and the LJD who ended up with just one seat.
A media critic on condition of anonymity said had the KC (M) been in the Congress-led UDF, they would have definitely extracted their pound of flesh and would have gone home with two cabinet posts.
“But with Vijayan, all such tactics won’t work and if Vijayan is magnanimous they will get one cabinet minister and a Chief Whip post or a deputy speaker post, both which comes with cabinet status.
“LJD is also in a quandary, as they were given three sitting seats of the Left and they lost two. Moreover, there are several other allies who have one legislator. So the final decision maker is going to be Vijayan and there are unlikely to be any murmurs. In case it happens, such allies will be shown the exit door,” said the critic.
In the coming two days Vijayan will finish his one to one meetings with the nine allies and then move on to pick his cabinet ministers from the CPI-M.
In the outgoing Vijayan cabinet there were 20 Ministers including Vijayan and the CPI-M took away 13 including his post.
The maximum upper limit is 21 and this time with more number of seats for the CPI-M, it remains to be seen if there will be more ministers this time and waiting with bated breath are cabinet hopeful legislators in his party.
From the outgoing cabinet, five were not given a seat to contest, while six won and the lone loser was State Fisheries Minister J.Mercykutty.
According to sources in the know of things, Vijayan is contemplating to field a totally new team with the sole exception of State Health Minister K.K.Shailaja who might be retained as a Minister and is also being considered for the Speaker’s post and if it happens, she will become the first woman speaker in the Kerala Assembly.
One problem that Vijayan might face is if he decides to go in for a new team, it could lead to lack of experience as in the outgoing cabinet he had seasoned veterans like Thomas Isaac (Finance), G.Sudhakaran (Public Works) and A.K.Balan (Law).
The only other legislator who has previous experience is former Minister (1996-01) and Speaker (2006-11) K.Radhakrishnan and coming from the Scheduled Caste community, he is a sure certainty.
Among the others whose names have started to make the rounds include former Rajya Sabha members — P.Rajeev and K.N.Balagopal besides two time Lok Sabha member M.B.Rajesh.
Veteran CPI-M leader M.V.Govindan is also a sure certainty and others like Thottathil Ravindran, R.Bindhu — wife of present acting secretary of CPI-M and also the LDF convenor A.Vijayaraghavan are the others who could get the call from Vijayan.
In Kerala, where every post is given on the basis of caste, creed and religion, the Christian’s who can get a post include Saji Cherian, Xavier Chittilapally, Linto Joseph, K.J.Maxi, K.N.Ansalan and G.Stephen and the women include Veena George and Daleema Jojo.
From the Muslim community include C.H.Kunhambu, A.N.Shamsheer, M.Noushad, N.K.Akbar. Son-in-law of Vijayan — P.A.Mohammed Riyaz and the lone Muslim lady from the CPI-M — K.Jameela.
The CPI — the second biggest ally which got four Minister’s last time is likely to get it this time too, while the allies like NCP and Janata Dal (S) who have two legislators each, have by now zeroed down on their nominees.
With Covid raging in Kerala and the state under a total lockdown till next Sunday, the tentative date for the swearing in has been fixed for May 20, Vijayan has time to make the final list and until then, all the hopefuls will have to wait.