Election to the post of Speaker of the Kerala Assembly will be held today. The ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) has fielded G Karthikeyan, a senior Congress leader and former power minister, for the post, while A K Balan, also a former power minister, will contest from the opposition side.
Though fielding an opposition candidate to the post is often a formality, the situation this time may be different as the majority of the ruling front is very thin. The UDF has 73 members including the Anglo-Indian nominee, while the Left Front has 68 members.
As per the normal practice, the two candidates and the pro-tem speaker of the House do not cast their votes, but today they are also expected to vote as the election is on secret ballot basis.
Kerala Congress (Mani Faction) has been demanding the post and their senior leader P C George had openly expressed his wish to become the Speaker. But the Congress leadership was adamant on the post and finally announced their candidate.
The candidates for the posts of deputy Speaker and the Minister of Parliamentry Affairs are as yet undecided but the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has demanded the latter portfolio, going so far as to announce the name of Manjalamkuzhi Ali for the post.
Congress offered them the post of chief whip with a cabinet rank, but IUML seemed to be in no mood to accept it. They want five members in the cabinet including the Parliamentary Affairs minister.
KC-M argues that if IUML is given an additional berth in the cabinet they too should get one more. But the Congress does not want the number of the council of the ministers to exceed 20.
Also, there is a sense of 'inequilibrium' of communities in the cabinet with 11 members from the minorities. Congress strongly feels that if one more post is given to IUML and KC-M each, it may consolidate Hindu votes against ifself.
Congress offered the post of deputy speaker to KC-M, but they have not agreed to this. These issues are slated to be discussed in the next meeting of UDF as there was no consensus in the last meeting.