The return of AK Saseendran to the Pinarayi cabinet is more of a political compulsion of the CPM than the clean chit given by a probe panel in the honey trap row, but the High Court has to take a call on an out-of-court settlement between the NCP leader and a woman scribe at the center of the controversy.
The HC was to give a ruling on Friday but as the judge was on leave, the matter has been postponed.
There is also a possibility of a plea against the out-of-court settlement by a political formation, and this could further complicate matters. The chief minister's office is of the opinion that since the Thomas Chandy episode has put the government in a fix legally, it would be prudent to consider all aspects before the NCP is again allotted a cabinet berth.
That is perhaps why the CPM meet on Friday lobbed the decision on Saseendran to the LDF. The HC ruling is likely any day next week. CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran and Panniyan are in Delhi for the party's national executive meet which will end today. After they arrive in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday a date for the LDF meet next week would be fixed.
This would give time for the ruling dispensation to consider the pros and cons of admitting Saseendran. If a plea to quash an out-of-court settlement is initiated, the going may not be that easy for Saseendran's re-entry.
The NCP leader had quit following a channel expose of indecent talk by the minister, which later turned out to be a honey trap.
Thomas Chandy, who took over as transport minister from his party colleague, also had to quit following a channel expose on alleged land grab, which later triggered a court battle. The HC observations on whether a minister can indeed take his own government to court too did him in.
CHANDY ROW BOOSTED SASEENDRAN'S CHANCES
Incidentally, the row over Thomas Chandy's resignation had earlier boosted Saseendran's chances to return to the cabinet. The understanding when Chandy took over was that as soon as Saseendran clears charges against him, Chandy would step down to pave way for the latter's return.
After Chandy too quit, the understanding in the NCP and the LDF was that the one who clears the charges first would assume office. With Chandy approaching the SC to expunge adverse remarks by the HC, the major hurdle to Saseendran's return was the P.S. Antony commission report. Since it did not carry any adverse remark against Saseendran, the CPM was waiting for the legal nod to the out-of the-court settlement between Saseendran and the woman scribe involved in the honey trap row.
That is why when NCP approached the LDF with this demand, Viakom Viswan, the convener of the ruling front, sought two days. That was a precaution to avoid any unwarranted embarrassment if the HC blocked the out-of-court settlement.
FISSURES IN LDF
A key factor which swayed opinion in favor of Saseendran's return was also the CPM-CPI spat over the Thomas Chandy resignation drama.
The CPI ministers had boycotted the cabinet meeting in protest against Chandy's continuance. The CPM viewed this as an unprecedented act of its second largest coalition partner and its second rung leaders also mounted a scathing attack on the issue. The CPI also went on a belligerent mode and took action against its
national executive member KE Ismail, who put the party on back foot on the issue. The LDF's rock solid margin in the assembly then suddenly seemed shaky for the CPM.
Simple calculations in the CPM camp showed that in the event of the CPI taking any extreme position and steps aside, the margin of the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the assembly will not be that rosy.
It may even fall into a minority if the two NCP legislators too switched sides and all the other opposition parties came together.
Though these are far fetched scenarios, realpolitik demands that such calculations should always play a role.
So, the CPM decided to keep the NCP in good humor by keeping its ministerial berth vacant till either of its legislators clear the legal hurdles.
It also, in the meantime, made overtures to the Janata Dal (U) led by Veerendrakumar, though it did not have a legislator.
So checkmating the CPI's tough stance is the political compulsion that forced the CPM to veering to the idea of accommodating Saseendran and NCP, but legal pitfalls are still aplenty.