Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday joined the UDF ministry headed by Oommen Chandy as part of a move to boost prospects of the coalition in the coming Lok Sabha polls by setting factional and equations correct.
In a limited cabinet expansion, Governor Nikhil Kumar administered oath of office and secrecy to 57-year-old Chennithala.
He is tipped to get the Home portfolio in the ministry, replacing his party colleague Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan, who has been retained in the cabinet. Chief Minister Chandy, his cabinet colleagues, senior party functionaries, leaders of the UDF partners and deputy leader of opposition in the assembly Kodiyeri Balakrishnan were present at the function.
A thinking has been strong in Congress in Kerala that induction of Chennithala will help Congress firm up its support base among the majority community in general and the Nair community in particular to which he belongs to.
Influential Nair outfit NSS had in the past had come down heavily on UDF alleging that the coalition leadership breached its poll-eve promise of giving Chennithala a "key position" in the cabinet, in which nominees from Christian and Muslim communities outnumber those from various Hindu sections.
The idea to rope in Chennithala, mooted by the party high command, was endorsed by the state unit yesterday after senior leader and Defence Minister A K Antony conveyed it at a leadership meeting attended by Chandy, Chennithala and others.
Chennithala will continue as the KPCC chief till the organisational and a ministerial shuffle after the budget session of the state assembly, beginning on January 3, is concluded.
One of the longest serving KPCC Presidents reputed for organisational skills, Chennithala is becoming a Minister after a gap of nearly 27 years.
His first brief ministerial stint was in 1986 when his one-time mentor K Karunakaran made him Rural Development Minister bypassing many a senior, which became a turning point in his career.
Since then, he rose to become national president of the Youth Congress being handpicked by late Rajiv Gandhi, which helped him to strike strong bonds with the high command on account of his unflinching loyalty to the Gandhi-Nehru family.
In 1989, Chennithala resigned from the assembly to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Mavelikkara, which he won with a comfortable margin.
After that he has a victory spree getting re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991, 1996 and 1999 and also served as AICC Secretary.
He returned to the home state to head the party nine years ago and steered the UDF to victory.