Father-son clash haunts Chandy government

Thiruvananthapuram, March 29 (IANS) One's heard of fathers bending over backwards to promote their sons, but here's a curious case of a father hell bent on getting his son booted out of Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy's cabinet on disciplinary grounds.

The tussle between 78-year-old R. Balakrishna Pillai, chairman of the Kerala Congress (B) who has previously served eight terms as a legislator, and his son, Forest Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar (48), now has the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government at its wit's end. Ganesh Kumar was in the news earlier this year when he was reportedly beaten up by his lover's husband.

Ganesh Kumar is the lone Kerala Congress (B) legislator in the assembly and is a minister thanks to the UDF's wafer-thin majority in the 140-member house. While the UDF has 73 seats, the Left opposition has 67 seats.

Trouble has been brewing ever since Pillai was given a remission by the chief minister in November 2011 after serving a few months in jail in a corruption case. Since then, he has been complaining - but without elaborating - that his son "does not abide by the directives of the party".

Chandy, state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala and UDF convenor P.P. Thankachan have held numerous parleys with the father-son duo and each time the issue appears to be resolved, only to soon rear its ugly head.

Last week, things went for a toss when Ganesh Kumar's doctor wife complained to Chandy of ill-treatment by her husband.

But the master tactician that Chandy is, he wriggled out by stating that he had no written complaint from Ganesh Kumar's wife, which later turned to be true.

"Issues have been sorted out, but the media's issues in this case can never be sorted out," said an angry Chandy.

And when many thought that Pillai would lash out at his son, he cooled down and appeared very soft on his son. After a very long gap, the two even met.

"After all we are father and son and nothing more needs to be seen into our meeting," Pillai said.

As the UDF breathed easy, things again went for a toss on Tuesday when Pillai demanded that his son quit because "he is not adhering to the party directive".

Quite obviously, the UDF is not amused.

"It has now crossed all limits and the patience of not only the leaders who are trying to broker peace between the duo but the patience of people of the state is also being tested. I am yet to see a father who is hell bent on seeing the back of his son," complained a top UDF leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ganesh Kumar has maintained stoic silence as he has to deal with issues related to his wife after reports surfaced that the two have more or less decided to part ways.

Now all eyes are on the UDF meeting scheduled for the first week of April, when Pillai is expected to again press for his son's removal from the cabinet.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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