Completing the process of Cabinet constitution remarkably quickly and smoothly, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government will assume office on Wednesday, a day after the Chief Minister-designate turned 71.
A 19-member Cabinet will be sworn in at a simple ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram. The CPI(M), the leader of the LDF, will have 12 ministers, including the Chief Minister. The second-largest party in the coalition, the CPI, will have four ministers. The NCP, the Congress (S) and Janata Dal (Secular) will get one berth each in the Cabinet. The posts of Government Chief Whip and Assembly Speaker will also go to the CPI(M).
The Chief Minister will keep with him the politically important portfolios of Home and Vigilance. TM Thomas Isaac will take charge of the crucial Finance portfolio. Isaac, an economist, was Finance Minister in the VS Achuthanandan ministry of 2006-11 too.No VS challenge
Though it was almost a foregone conclusion within the CPI(M) that Pinarayi would become Chief Minister if the LDF was voted to power, the party had anticipated a strong pitch for the post from the nonagenarian Achuthanandan and was well prepared for it. The latter did stake his claim for Chief Minister, but realising that the odds were heavily stacked against him, he did not push hard.
Party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and his predecessor Prakash Karat, in coordination with the pro-Pinarayi State leadership, smoothly managed the affair within 24 hours of the declaration of election results.
With Achuthanandan out of the way, there were no hurdles for the party to decide on Cabinet composition other important posts.Composing the Cabinet
It decided that the size of the Cabinet would be restricted to 19 and the CPI(M) apportioned 12 berths. Since the CPI and the other minor coalition partners were not in a position to bargain for more, they accepted their shares without grudging.
Only those parties which were members of the LDF were given ministerial berths; hence groups such as the Kerala Congress (B) had to stay out.
Since the CPI(M) does not tolerate manoeuvring for ministerial berths by its MLAs, there were no hiccups over this. However, in the CPI, NCP and JD(U) ministerial aspirants created tensions within their own parties, though the issue was resolved.Huge challenges
The Pinarayi government faces huge challenges ahead — the State’s coffers are empty and debt burden staring at the government. For welfare measures and to pay salaries and pensions, the government will have to raise huge sums. Isaac has already said that he would not impose new taxes.
Politically, it is possible that the government’s relations with the BJP-ruled Centre will be stormy. The Sangh Parivar sees the CPI(M) as its main rival in Kerala. Attacks and counter-attacks over the past several decades have claimed hundreds of lives. Already, Central leaders of the BJP-RSS have indicated an aggressive approach to the CPI(M): the BJP opening its account with the win in Nemom has only bolstered the party.