CPI holds on to Agriculture, Civil Supplies portfolios, may compromise on Forest

LDF shifts to poll mode, here's its blueprint for seat-sharing talks
Pinarayi Vijayan with Kanam Rajendran. File

Thiruvananthapuram: Even as discussions on sharing cabinet berths gain momentum in the Left Democratic Front, the CPI has made it clear that the party will not compromise on Revenue, Food and Civil Supplies, and Agriculture portfolios. 

The CPI has been handling these departments for several years. Though the party has not been adamant in the case of Forests and Wildlife Protection department, the party has not yet expressed its willingness to part with this portfolio. The CPI will demand another equally important department, if it has to compromise on the Forest department. 

Both the CPM and CPI have decided to accord nominal presentation to single-MLA parties in the new cabinet. Though not all single-MLA parties would be accommodated, Kerala Congress (B), Janadhipathya Kerala Congress (JKC), and Indian National League (INL) may be included. 

The senior LDF constituents have not completely ruled out the possibility of inducting Congress (S) in the second Pinarayi cabinet.

The CPM will have 12 ministers, including the chief minister, in the 21-minister cabinet, besides the Speaker. CPI will get four ministers and the post of Deputy Speaker. The CPI has not accepted the suggestion to give up the post of Deputy Speaker for Chief Whip. 

The discussions are now considering one ministerial post each to Kerala Congress (M), Janata Dal (S) and Nationalist Congress Party. The remaining two cabinet berths and the post of Chief Whip may be rotated on two-and-a-half-year terms among the smaller parties.  

In such a scenario, KC(M), which has demanded two cabinet berths, is expecting one term for its representative. Antony Raju (JKC), K B Ganesh Kumar (KC-B) and Ahammad Devarkovil are also expecting ministerial posts. 

The CPM and CPI will hold another round of bilateral talks on Sunday, a day before the LDF meet slated to decide the representation of each constituent party in the cabinet. Based on the LDF meet’s decision, CPM and CPI will finalise their ministers on Tuesday.

The discussions are progressing to take the oath of office and secrecy on Thursday, despite Thiruvananthapuram and three other districts going under a week-long triple lockdown.

The CPI has rejected the KC(M)’s wish to get either Agriculture or Food and Civil Supplies portfolio. Chief Minister and CPM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, meanwhile, apprised CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran of the progress of discussions with other LDF allies. CPM is trying for consensus in the LDF based on the talks with CPI. 

Pointing out that it had already given up portfolios such as Tourism, Law and Fisheries the CPI said it is not ready to compromise on any other major departments it has been holding. The party got the Forest portfolio only in 2006.

The CPM and CPI have reached an understanding that a decision may be made in a general meeting if the Front has to accommodate two or three new constituent parties in the cabinet.

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