Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is not projecting himself as the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming assembly elections, instead leaving the decision, at least officially, to the Congress leadership to take after election results.
"I am not the chief ministerial face. It is never so in Kerala, it is never decided before the elections. After the results, the party high command and the MLAs will decide on who should be the CM," Chandy told Times Of India.
Chandy will be up against what is likely to be a hotly contested battle against the Left bloc.
Left and BJP energized after local polls
Kerala home minister Ramesh Chennithala has reportedly been eyeing the hot seat in Kerala. By keeping the chief minister choice up for grabs until the end, political analysts say this will keep Chennithala's powerful Nair caste interested. Chandy is a Christian with appeal among Hindus while state Congress chief V M Sudheeran is from the OBC Ezhava community.
The Congress did badly in the recently held local body polls and this has energized both the Left bloc and the BJP hardliners.
The BJP is trying to wean the Ezhava community away by a tie-up with community outfit SNDP and is working its saffron strategy on other Hindu groups. BJP's inroads have added to the immediate need for all parties to keep the leadership aspirations of Hindu hopefuls warm.
Vijayan's stars on the rise
On the Left, the buzz is growing that CPM politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan could be a Chief Minister candidate. This coincides with a sharp change in strategy by the CPM in Kerala. The party has whipped up a new development agenda with some of the recommendations calling for large-scale investment, something uncharacteristic of the party in this state so far, reports The Indian Express.
Most unlike its traditional image, the CPM has suggested a high-speed rail corridor from the north to the south of Kerala. The Congress-led government has been pushing a similar project but has ended up against resistance on land acquisition.
Lavalin case update
In other maneuvers, the state government this week approached the Kerala High Court seeking to advance the hearing in the revision petitions challenging the acquittal of Pinarayi and others in the SNC Lavalin case.
Party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that the government had broken its more than two years silence in the case ahead of the election to divert attention. The petition said the trial court had failed to take cognizance of several crucial evidences produced by the CBI.
The CBI case was that Mr. Vijayan, while serving as Electricity Minister from May 1996 to October 1998, along with the other accused, had hatched a criminal conspiracy to award the Rs.360-crore contract for the renovation and modernisation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam, and Panniar hydroelectric projects to SNC-Lavalin at an exorbitant cost.
The state government had yesterday approached the HC seeking “urgent” hearing of the revision petition filed against a CBI court verdict acquitting Vijayan in the case.
BJP ready to unleash right wing saffron
BJP has rolled up its sleeves and ready to unleash right wing saffron in Kerala politics.
Hindu Aikya Vedi general secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan has been crowned president of BJP in Kerala in a clear message that the "BJP is set to play hard-line Hindutva to the hilt in Kerala," say reports.
Providing ammunition will be Vellappally Natesan who kicked up a political storm recently when he asked Kerala CM Oomen Chandy to stay away from a Modi-headlined function in the state capital.
BJP has an alliance with Natesan in Kerala. Both Rajasekharan and Natesan are Hindu leaders involved in controversies with Christians.
Kerala chief minister Oomen Chandy set off a political storm after confirming that BJP ally Vellapally Natesan is the man who asked him to skip a statue unveiling that Prime Minister Modi attended last November.
Congress circles have reacted saying Natesan is under pressure from BJP to keep Chandy out.