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Chandy imbroglio offers Sonia Gandhi a chance to set communal equations right, counter BJP

soniaWith a vigilance court directing the filing of a First Information Report against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Congress President Sonia Gandhi may move to address some of the nagging concerns about ‘communal imbalance’ in the state government.

Almost ever since the Chandy-led government took over, the Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to fuel its own growth by claiming that none of the top three persons in the government — Chandy, finance minister KM Mani and minister and head of Muslim League K Kunjalikutty — were from the Hindu community, which comprises about 53% of the state’s population.

In fact, allegations of ‘discrimination against majority community’ became so rampant that Sonia Gandhi had to intervene and bring in Ramesh Chennithala, the most prominent Nair politician in the Congress, as the home minister three years into the government’s tenure.

That had the desired effect of shutting up allegations of bias from Nair Service Society, a prominent association which represents many of the states Nair population.

Nairs form the backbone of the Hindu upper caste community of Kerala, and comprise around 11% of the state population. The community is one of the two major pillars of strength for the Congress in Kerala, with the other being the Syrian Christian community, who form around 14% of the population.

However, the Hindu upper castes have, over the last five years, slowed moved away from the Congress — which they increasingly see as Christian-dominated — and towards the BJP. The BJP, on its part, has left no stone unturned in its effort to court the disillusioned group.

However, the Congress was not overly worried about the growth of the BJP as it felt that it would hurt the communist parties more.

The impact of the changing communal politics was felt in the last local body elections, where Congress faced an absolute rout in many of the places it once dominated, such as the capital Thiruvananthapuram — dominated by Hindu upper castes.

Another factor that added to the pain was a call by Vellappalli Nateshan, head of an association claiming to represent the OBC Ezhavas (22% of the population) to support the BJP.

A NEW BEGINNING 

The results of the local body polls came as a rude awakening to many Kerala leaders and specialists in the party.

Kerala is one of the few states where the Congress Party was hoping to remain in power, after having faced a rout over the last three years in the face of a BJP led by Narendra Modi.

However, with ever-present allegations of corruption that do not seem to go away, Congress President Sonia Gandhi may finally decided to kill two birds with one stone — address corruption allegations by removing Oommen Chandy and seek to assuage upper class Hindus by bringing in Ramesh Chennithala as the CM.

While this could help the party retain power in the upcoming state elections, it could also be portrayed as an acceptance of Chandy’s culpability, lending further credibility to the very corruption allegations that are sought to be denied.

While reports indicate that the central leadership is evaluating its options, a final decision in the case is expected by around 4 pm today.

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