Where father−son spat affects state politics (Kerala Newsletter)

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 23: “Issues” between K.B. Ganesh Kumar, a cabinet minister, and his father R. Balakrishna Pillai, a former cabinet minister and veteran politician, have put Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his government in a spot.

Pillai, 78, is chairman of the Kerala Congress (B) and an eight−time legislator who has even served a term as a Lok Sabha member. Since being included in the then Chandy cabinet of 2004, his political fortunes have, however, seen a downturn.

Pillai lost the 2006 assembly polls, and then found himself cooling his heels in jail, as then chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan pursued an old case and the Supreme Court in March 2011 ordered a year’s imprisonment in connection with misuse of office for the award of a hydroelectric project contract.

Being in jail, Pillai could not contest the assembly polls in April 2011.

His son Kumar registered a hat−trick win from the Pathanapuram constituency and went on to become the state’s forest minister in the Chandy cabinet.

Pillai’s party was given two seats in the 2011 polls; in the Kottarakara seat, the traditional seat of Pillai, the party candidate lost. Pillai’s son was thus the only party legislator and that made him eligible for a prized cabinet berth.

All was peaceful for as long as the father served his jail term.

Once the Chandy government granted Pillai remission, the father and son have turned against each other.

Issues reached a head when Pillai asked the UDF government and Chandy to withdraw Kumar from the cabinet.

Chandy, however, is in no position to comply: his government survives on a wafer−thin majority of just six seats.

With the father and son routinely sparring, party workers are forced to take sides.

The latest standoff between the duo took place a few days back, when Pillai staged a sit−in dharna in front of the Pathanapuram police station after one of his party leaders was picked up by police, following alleged “intervention” from the son’s office.

After several hours, the police released the party worker.

The father then announced that black flags will be waved at the minister son, whenever he attends a public function.

The first such black−flag waving incident occurred Thursday, as Kumar was on his way to a government function.

Police quickly arrested the man who waved the flag.

Chandy has tried on several occasions to broker peace between the father and son to no avail. The father is determined to teach his son a lesson.

In a loaded statement, Pillai said: “I am the only one to be blamed for this fiasco because of what I did. But one thing is sure: he (the son) is not going to go on like this forever.”

The 46−year−old son, however, maintained a stoic silence.

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

IANS