Coalition of communities rules Kerala

National

Over the years, Kerala's cabinet has always had a representation of Hindus, Muslims and Christians for a sense of balance, but never before has any government allowed religious groups to dictate its every decision as it has done now.

Under pressure from various community-based groups, the Congress-led government has reshuffledits cabinet to accommodate each one's wishes. The cabinet, headed by a Christian chief minister, was first expanded to give more space to the Congress's junior partner Indian Union Muslim League, then the portfolios of the Congress's own Hindu ministers were rejigged to ensure that they handled crucial departments.

The reshuffle was done without consulting the Congress state leadership, which has brought Chief Minister Oommen Chandy under fire from the state unit as well as Union minister Vayalar Ravi.

Since it took over in May 2011, the Congress-led United Democratic Front government was being described as one run by Muslims and Christians. The IUML and the Kerala Congress, a regional Christian party, held several key portfolios the same ones they had held consistently in successive UDF governments. They together have 29 members in the 72-strong front, with the IUML's share of 20 representing an all-time high. The Congress has 38 members.

The present crisis began when Chandy yielded to the IUML demand for an additional berth, its fifth. IUML chief Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal, in fact, unilaterally announced the fifth minister at his Malappuram home. The state Congress was against this for fear that it would upset the Hindu lobby, but Chandy eventually inducted the IUML's M Ali.

This raised the minority strength in the 21-member cabinet into 12, leading to an uproar from the Hindu lobby and forcing Chandy to address the majority segment's concerns too. His flagship Home went to Thiruvanchoor Nair, an upper class Hindu Nair, and Revenue to Adoor Prakash, of the backward Hindu Ezhava community. Yet leaders of both communities dismissed these moves as gimmicks.

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