Pinarayi 2.0 cabinet formation talks on, housekeeping duties gain steam

Thiruvananthapuram: The second Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala is set to take the oath of office on May 20. As preparations for the swearing-in ceremony gain momentum, the CPM has already completed the first round of bilateral talks with the other constituent parties that make up the Left Democratic Front (LDF).

Instead of Raj Bhavan, the Central Stadium behind the State Secretariat has been selected as the venue to ensure strict adherence to the many COVID guidelines issued by the Health Department.

Only invitees will be allowed entry into the stadium for the 3:30 pm ceremony.

About 750 people are expected to be invited, including members of the new and old legislatures, outgoing ministers, family members of the new ministers, personalities from film and cultural spheres, and journalists. The public will not have access.

Housekeeping duties

Although the old cabinet remains the caretaker of the state still, ministers are only seldom seen coming to the Secretariat. Yet, none of them has vacated their offices or official residences.

Also, it was earlier suggested that all official vehicles be returned by the time the list of new ministers is finalized. Necessary repairs will be done on them before releasing them to their new owners.

It is expected that after the swearing-in ceremony, the new ministers will travel in these vehicles to attend the first cabinet meeting at the Secretariat.

Six of the outgoing ministers have already returned their official vehicles.

The outgoing ministers will be given 15 days to vacate their offices and residences once the new Cabinet is formed.

Cabinet formation talks

During the bilateral talks, Janadhipathya Kerala Congress, Indian National League (INL) and Congress (S) staked their claims for cabinet berths. CPM said a final decision would be conveyed after discussions.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan met the allies separately and listened to their demands. A final decision would be made at an LDF meeting slated for May 17. CPM would hold one more round of talks with constituent parties before the LDF meet.

The Janadhipathya Kerala Congress argued that the party had contested in four seats in 2016, but was allotted only one this time. Since it has won the seat, the party should be considered for a ministerial post, it said.

The party also demanded the CPM to ensure the representation of Latin Catholics by drafting its lone MLA, Antony Raju, into the cabinet. Dr K C Joseph, P C Joseph and Antony Raju attended the meeting.

K B Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B) demanded to consider him since he had been an LDF MLA during the previous term. He also pointed out that the party’s late chief R Balakrishna Pillai had held cabinet rank as the chairman of the Kerala State Welfare Corporation for Forward Communities.

The INL said it was expecting representation in the cabinet since the party has been backing the LDF for more than two-and-a-half decades. Such representation would help the party to make inroads into Indian Union Muslim League dominated areas, INL said. A P Abdul Wahab and Kasim Irikkoor led the talks for the party.

Ramachandran Kadannappally, president of Kerala Congress (S), demanded a cabinet berth pointing out that his party has been standing firm with the LDF. The CPM, however, remained non-committal, though it had already clarified that accommodating all single-MLA parties in the cabinet would not be possible.

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