Kerala sects’ unholy hold on ministry

For the Congress in Kerala, the real high command is not in Delhi. That power vests with the state Hindu, Muslim leaders and bishops, particularly the Catholic ones. Accordingly, on Wednesday, state party chief Ramesh Chennithala was made the home minister to placate the Hindu Nair community.

He was brought in in place of Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, also a Nair, not because of the latter's poor performance or any collapse of law and order, but because the Nair Service Society wanted Chennithala to occupy the key post, and the Congress acquiesced. The party believes the step will ensure that the Nairs vote for it in bulk in the Lok Sabha elections.

When Shashi Tharoor was made a union minister in 2009, the same NSS had "rejected" him, calling him a Delhi Nair, not good enough to represent the community.

Although every government is swayed by caste influences, never before has the Congress had a government in Kerala that dances so to the tune of community leaders. The Hindu, Muslim and Christian heads don't just fix party candidates, they also pick up nominees for the cabinet, and determine which departments their nominees are allotted. So, when the Congress offered the revenue portfolio to Radhakrishnan as a peace gesture after removing him from home, the satrap of the backward Hindu Ezhavas, Vellappally Nateshan, put his foot down. Following his pressure, the community's Adoor Prakash will continue to hold that portfolio.

The Congress, which wilted under Nateshan's fire, has now offered Radhakrishan forests.

Recently, when a Catholic bishop in Kozhikode threatened that "blood will spill" if the K Kasturirangan report on Western Ghats was implemented, Congress MP Shanavas M I publicly endorsed him.

Every passing incident shows the Congress's helplessness in caste bargaining — a departure from the days of K Karunakaran and A K Antony.

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