Mani C Kappan, who had wrested the Pala seat for the LDF, has sworn in as MLA on Wednesday. He took his oath in English, and in the name of God. The swearing in ceremony was held in the Banquet Hall inside the Legislative Assembly complex.
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and minister A K Balan were present. With Kappan's entry, the number of Nationalist Congress Party members will go up to three;, transport minister AK Saseendran and Thomas Chandy are the other members.
The NCP, along with Janata Dal (Secular), will now be the third largest component in the LDF. However, this will not entitle the NCP to an additional minister. The JD(S), too, has only one minister, K Krishnankutty.
Sources said that the NCP had made it known that quota considerations should be set aside in the case of Kappan because of the historic win he has secured for the LDF. Kappan, who had been gradually narrowing the gap between himself and K M Mani over three Assembly elections, finally managed to defeat the Kerala Congress (Mani) candidate Jose Tom by a margin of 2943 votes. It was after 54 years that someone other than K M Mani had won from Pala.
The CPM, however, has made it clear to the NCP leadership that it would not be given more than one minister. The party was also told that if it was keen on having Kappan as a minister it was up to them to pull out their existing minister.
However, sources said that the CPM was not very enthusiastic about Kappan. Recently, an old testimony he had given the CBI indicting CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in a bribery scandal related to the shares of Kannur International Airport had surfaced. Kappan has denied giving such a statement but still, a CPM source said that the party feels that if at all Kappan was made a minister it might even look like blackmail.
As for the NCP, getting an additional minister was the best way to keep competing factions in check. Now with the CPM putting its foot down on an extra minister, the factionalism within the NCP is expected to intensify. Sources said that those aligned with Thomas Chandy are itching to have Saseendran replaced with Kappan. Kappan is also known to be on Chandy's side.
It is said there is no love lost between Saseendran and Chandy. Saseendran was the first to be inducted as minister. But right in the early stages of the LDF government he had to resign after a private channel aired an audio clip that put the minister in an embarrassing position. The Saseendran faction had then suspected that Chandy had played a part in the audio expose.
Thomas Chandy then took over as the transport minister. But in less than a year he had to resign after his private resort was caught in an encroachment scandal. Chandy, who is said to have had the support of the Chief Minister, tried to brazen it out. But he did not expect the CPI's objection to be so fierce. The CPI had even gone to the extent of boycotting a Cabinet meeting attended by Chandy. Eventually, he had to bow out.
Saseendran then got himself acquitted in a lower court and was sworn in once again as transport minister.