Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Tuesday said it would ask the party's central leadership to take a decision on whether Thomas Chandy should resign from the state cabinet.
NCP state president Peethambaran Master said the state council of the party doesn't have the power to decide on the appointment or resignation of a minister.
“We would convey the party state leadership's general feeling to the party parliamentary board,” Peethambaran told media persons here after a meeting of the state council. However, he did not reveals what was the 'general feeling' despite repeated queries.
He said the party is entitled to abide by the decision to be taken by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
It is learnt that the majority of the state council was of the opinion that Chandy should quit. Chandy abstained from the meeting.
High Court observations
Earlier in the day, a division bench of the High Court hearing Chandy's appeal to quash the Alappuzha district collector's report on the land grab charges slammed the transport minister for the constitutional impropriety of questioning the decision of the government in which he himself is part.
The bench asked Chandy whether a minister could file a case against the government that he is part of. “Is Chandy's act against the Constitution? You are attacking the government." Only if there are any directives in the collector's report can it be questioned, the court observed.
The act in itself provides reason enough to sack him, the court observed. The bench also pointed out that the government failed to take action at the right time.
The government also changed its stance, terming the minister's act of approaching the court against him as immature.
The NCP's worry is that if Thomas Chandy resigns, the party will lose the ministry. If there is a delay in finding a new minister, they are afraid that the party will lose the post.
The party has also got a clear directive from its national leadership to avoid such a situation. There is an understanding that if AK Saseendran is acquitted, Thomas Chandy will have to step down.
The party is also expecting the Justice PA Antony Commission that looked into the telephone sex scandal involving Saseendran to submit its report soon. But the woman's plea to withdraw the case will be taken up by the high court only on November 24.
Three public interest litigations against Thomas Chandy and the petition Chandy filed against the collector's report will be considered by the high court on Tuesday. If there is any adverse remark or a decision against him, Thomas Chandy will have to resign.
This has forced the party to call a meeting on Tuesday. To complicate matters, if a decision on Chandy is delayed, the CPI has threatened that it will publicly demand his resignation.
Though the Kerala NCP leadership sought to downplay the significance of Tuesday's meeting, saying it was planned a month ago to discuss organizational matters, party insiders said the Chandy issue would be discussed by the 100-member executive committee, particularly in view of the NCP's souring relations with LDF partner CPI over the issue.
Following reports that CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran had strongly pressed for Chandy's resignation at an LDF meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, the NCP on Monday hit out at the Left party, saying its stand on many issues had put the CPM-led LDF government in trouble.
"The CPI airs a different view on every issue...We cannot say that the party is anti-government, but the enemies (of the government) are the beneficiaries of the stand taken by it on many issues," NCP state president T P Peethambaran told reporters here.
The NCP, which has only two members in the Kerala Assembly, is making an all-out effort to protect its nominee in the LDF government.
Peethambaran said the authority to take decisions on any matter, including nominating or quitting of its nominee from a government, was vested with the party's central parliamentary board.
The party was of the view that a final decision on the issue should be based on the high court's decision on Chandy's petition, seeking to quash the Alappuzha collector's report on the alleged encroachment of paddy fields for a lake resort owned by the minister, he added.
No compromise: BJP
Launching the protest at Thiruvananthapuram, BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan said there was no question of any compromise on the demand for Chandy's resignation.
"Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan should explain why is he protecting Chandy, even though all the legal advices related to the issue are against the minister," he said.
Later, a BJP delegation led by Kummanam met governor P Sathasivam and submitted a memorandum demanding Chandy's resignation.
The LDF had on Sunday decided to entrust Pinarayi with taking an appropriate decision on whether Chandy should continue as a minister.
Kerala advocate general C P Sudhakara Prasad had recently informed the state government that the Alappuzha collector's report on the alleged encroachment was legally binding and that its findings could not be ignored.
The government had sought the AG's legal opinion on the matter after getting the report from collector T V Anupama, wherein she confirmed that a paddy field was reclaimed for laying a road to the lake resort.
Chandy had also allegedly encroached on the backwaters to construct a parking space for the resort, according to the collector's report.
Chandy became a minister only eight months ago, following the resignation of his party colleague, A K Saseendran, from the state cabinet over the issue of an alleged sleaze talk with a woman.