Will place for ‘Kerala Nair’ in cabinet appease NSS?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

CHANGANACHERRY - With ‘Kerala Nair’ K.C. Venugopal’s induction into the union council of ministers Wednesday, it is now to be seen whether this will improve the soured relations between the Congress and the Nair Service Society (NSS).

Venugopal, the Lok Sabha member from Alappuzha, was sworn in as the minister of state for power at a Rashtrapati Bhavan ceremony in New Delhi Wednesday evening.

The NSS was grossly unhappy with the Congress when a Nair from the state was not inducted in the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ministry.

Though Shashi Tharoor, who was inducted and later resigned as minister of state for external affairs, is a Nair, the NSS and particularly its assistant secretary Sukumaran Nair termed him as a “Delhi Nair”. They insisted that they wanted an ethnic “Kerala Nair” as a minister.

The Nair community, which constitutes almost 50 percent of the Hindus in the state since the mid-90s, has never had the best of relations with the Congress on certain political issues as also on social issues like reservations and education sector policies.

The souring of relations between the NSS and the Congress took a turn for the worse when in 1995 during the visit of then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, his security personnel are alleged to have sullied the resting place of revered NSS leader Mannathu Padmanabhan, at its headquarters.

In the 1996 Kerala assembly polls, NSS, whose political arm was the National Democratic Party, broke away from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and gave a call to defeat the A.K. Antony-led Congress and the UDF.

Since then, the NSS has taken a cautious approach and worked out a strategy that the best policy to get maximum benefit from political fronts in the state is to maintain an equidistant stand from both the Left and the Congress-led fronts.

Sukumaran Nair told IANS they are certainly happy about Venugopal’s induction.

“Look for sometime now across the country, when it comes to selection of candidates for assembly and parliament elections and later when cabinet posts are distributed, great importance is given to communities, caste and religion of the particular person selected,” Nair said.

“Yes, we always wanted a person from our community to be in the cabinet. Tharoor’s selection came from Delhi,” he said.

Nair, however, was quick to add that appointment of Venugopal as a minister does not signal all differences with the Congress are over.

“This is a solution for just the political difference of opinion we had. The larger issue on the social side is that for long we have demanded that the economically weaker in the upper classes should get the benefit of reservation,” Nair said.

“Even at the recent All India Congress Committee meeting, this was not taken up. We have also expressed our strong dissent on the guidelines in the Right to Education Act, that a monitoring committee should be set up to oversee the functioning of aided educational institutions,” he added.

The NSS is one of the progressive groups in the state and over the years it has rendered impressive service in the education sector.

It runs a string of educational institutions, but has kept out of the professional education sector because of unfavourable policies as the group belongs to the forward section of the society.

With the assembly polls in the state approaching, the decision to induct Venugopal could well make the Congress-led UDF breathe easily.

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