Thiruvananthapuram: The high voltage political stand-off in the LDF over the clamor for transport minister Thomas Chandy's resignation was defused on Wednesday after NCP announced that transport minister Thomas Chandy has quit the ministry.
"I have submitted Thomas Chandy's resignation letter to the chief minister," NCP state president T P Peethambaran master told reporters.
Chandy is the third minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet to resign after the LDF government came to power in May 2016. A K Saseendran of the NCP had resigned earlier this year after a sleaze audio clip with a woman went viral and E P Jayarajan (CPM) quit on nepotism charges.
"Thomas Chandy's resignation has been forwarded to the governor," chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters later in the day.
Chandy, who left for Alappuzha, after attending the cabinet meeting, told a TV channel that even though the chief minister did not seek his resignation and there were no circumstances for the same, a coalition partner's (CPI) "adamant" stand made the chief minister to ask him to "rethink."
"The chief minister said we are not asking you to resign, but take a decision after consulting with your leadership," Chandy said.
Earlier, there were reports that the NCP was working out a formula under which the minister would take leave from the cabinet and go to US for treatment.
Chandy will now approach the Alappuzha Collector to expunge what he claims as "adverse remarks against him". He will also approach the Supreme Court to nullify the observations against him by the high court.
In a day of high drama, Chandy had first met chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan at his official residence here ahead of a cabinet meeting. He held a discussion with the CM at the Cliff House around 7.50 am along with NCP state president T P Peethambaran.
After the meeting, Chandy went straight to the Secretariat to attend a cabinet meeting.
Chandy, who confronted mediapersons at the chief minister's office, said that he would attend the cabinet meeting and chief minister would take a decision after getting a copy of the court verdict.
Irked by this, the CPI, the second largest partner in the CPM led LDF front, decided not to attend the cabinet meeting if Chandy was present. The CPI ministers were in the Secretariat during the cabinet meeting, but went on to a huddle in revenue minister E Chandrasekharan's office. Chandrasekharan informed the chief minister through a letter the party's decision to skip the cabinet meet
The CM, while briefing the media after the cabinet meet, said the CPI ministers decided to keep away from the cabinet in protest against Chandy attending the cabinet. Pinarayi termed the decision as unprecedented.
He said the NCP leadership informed him that they need to discuss the issue with the national leadership of the party and after that he would take a decision.
Pinarayi also said that all parties in the front have to be given due respect and "their request has to be considered".
Dismissing the criticism that he was giving undue time to Chandy to take a decision, the CM said that it is only part of coalition propriety that Chandy and his party were being given time to take a stand on the matter.
The chief minister, perhaps, wanted to give Chandy the option of an honorable verdict, but by delaying an imminent resignation, the NCP and the minister only managed to sully the image of the LDF.
Meanwhile, coming out of the CMO, Thomas Chandy told reporters that he would quit if the central leadership of NCP directs him to do so. The minister said he would meet the CM after two hours. However, he sent the resignation letter to Pinarayi Vijayan via NCP state chief Peethambaran.
The opposition Congress-led UDF and BJP had been on a warpath since the past one month demanding Chandy's resignation over the encroachment allegations.
On Tuesday, Thomas Chandy said he would quit only if the observation against him is in the signed verdict of the Kerala High Court on his petition against the Alappuzha district collector's report on alleged encroachments. He cited a Supreme Court observation that court's oral observations need not be considered as a final verdict.
Chandy was speaking to media persons after the Kerala High Court dismissed his plea challenging a report by Alappuzha district collector T V Anupama which had found violations of land rules by the Lake Palace Resort management, in which Chandy has a stake.
"Let me get the signed verdict. If there is an observation against me in the verdict, no doubt, I will quit," he said to a query on the growing clamor for his resignation.
On Tuesday evening, Chandy, who was scheduled to go to New Delhi to meet NCP national leadership, canceled his trip and came to the state capital.
The three-time MLA from Kuttanad had joined the Pinarayi cabinet in April after party nominee A K Saseendran resigned in the aftermath of a honey trap case.
The businessman-turned politician has been under attack for the past one month from the opposition Congress-led UDF and the BJP over charges that a luxury resort at Kuttanad in Alapuzha district, owned by him, had allegedly encroached backwaters and violated land rules.
Alappuzha district collector T V Anupama's report to the government stated that there was large scale violations of Kerala land conservation act and Conservation of Paddy land and wetland act. Challenging this, the minister had moved the high court.
The court on Tuesday slammed the minister for approaching it challenging the government in which he was also a part.
A division bench of the high court held that a minister cannot file a petition against his own government, which had ordered the district collector to look into the matter and submit a report.
There was a violation of the collective cabinet responsibility by the minister, the court held.
"It shows that you have no trust in your own government and chief minister," the bench said, observing that it was "extremely improper" for a minister to file a petition against his own government.