Is Pinarayi Vijayan mulling a makeover of his cabinet?
Thiruvananthapuram: With its image having taken a beating and just 17 months left for the end of the tenure, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front Government is in the process of mulling a makeover as the year ahead will see the local body election followed by the Assembly polls.
According to sources, Pinarayi Vijayan is considering revamping his cabinet, especially by bringing new faces from the CPM.
Presently, including Pinarayi Vijayan there are 20 cabinet ministers and given the size of the 140-member Kerala Assembly, he can add one more.
Among the 20, the CPM has 12 cabinet berths excluding the CM and its here where he is going to bring in new faces.
Of the present lot, two who are the closest aides of Pinarayi Vijayan -- State Minister A. C. Moideen and State Excise Minister T. P. Ramakrishnan are likely to bow out, expressing their 'willingness' to return to strengthen the party ahead of the upcoming polls.
Pinarayi Vijayan is planning to bring in a minimum of three if not a maximum of five new faces and waiting in the wings to relinquish his post is the Speaker of the Assembly P. Sreeramakrishnan, who in lieu will be given a cabinet post.
Among those considered to replace Sreeramakrishnan includes seasoned veterans like Suresh Kurup and also Raju Abraham, known for their good relations that they have with the Congress-led opposition.
Pinarayi Vijayan, however, is not going to change the two women Minister's -- State Health Minister K. K. Shailaja and State Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty.
And, given the importance that Vijayan and his party gives to women empowerment, he is likely to include three-time legislator Ayisha Potti, in the cabinet, in order to give her an honourable exit, as she will be completing 15 years as a legislator from Kottarakara. With Kerala Congress (Pillai) now a full fledged ally, this seat has been the stronghold of veteran R. Balakrishna Pillai, for close to a five decades.
Among those who will remain untouched include State Finance Minister Thomas Issac, State Power Minister M. M. Mani, State Education Minister C. Raveendranath besides the Muslim face -- State Higher Education Minister K. T. Jaleel, who contested as a Left Independent candidate.
State PWD Minister G. Sudhakaran, who already has made it public, that this would be his last in electoral politics, would also be allowed to complete his full term.
Given their seniority in the party and in stature, State Industries Minister E. P. Jayarajan and State Minister for Culture A. K. Balan would keep their posts, unless they volunteer to step down.
State Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who Vijayan in the past stripped him of the Power portfolio, when Mani was inducted into the cabinet and, hence, it would not be a surprise, if Surendran was asked to make way.
Incidentally, with already one seat vacant, actor turned politician and two time former State Minister in the Congress-led United Democratic Front in the past -- K. B. Ganesh Kumar, who is also the son of R. Balakrishna Pillai is another one who Vijayan wants to come into his cabinet. This would send a positive signal to the powerful Hindu-Nair's social organisation -- the Nair Service Society, which had taken a strong anti-CPI-M stand during the Lok Sabha polls and the recent six Assembly bye-elections.
If more ministers express their desire to step down, then young faces who are in the good books of Vijayan including M. Swaraj and A. N. Shamsheer could be included in the cabinet. Along with the young faces, party veteran, C. K. Saseendran, also stands a chance.
Meanwhile, another likely change could be see state CPI-M Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who has been unwell, move out.
In case the party decides to give him leave and if Jayarajan is asked to deputise, then there would be another cabinet seat that may get vacant.
Now with Pinarayi Vijayan, currently on a 13-day foreign trip returning on Wednesday, the coming week could well be crucial, in case he decides to give the nod for the cabinet reshuffle.