Thiruvananthapuram, March 3: A go-getter Kerala minister, whose political career is pockmarked with dramatic twists and turns rivalling his roles as a movie actor, is now battling suggestions that he had been beaten up by the husband of his alleged lover.
The saga swirling around K.B. Ganeshkumar, relatively young at 46 and holding the cinema, sport and forest portfolios, marks a milestone in the cut-throat and feud-fuelled world of Kerala politics.
Kerala is no stranger to innuendo-laced whisper campaigns on personal lives of politicians but the allegation has come this time from within the ranks of the United Democratic Front, the Congress-led coalition ruling the state.
P.C. George, the government’s chief whip who is known for his acid-dripping tongue, today sought to link Ganesh to a newspaper report that said a member of the state cabinet was involved in an extramarital affair and the minister had been assaulted by the woman’s husband in his official bungalow.
“I’m convinced that the person referred to by the newspaper is K.B. Ganeshkumar,” George told TV channels and demanded that the minister step down.
Ganesh denied the charges and has threatened to seek legal recourse.
According to the report in the vernacular Mangalam daily, which did not identify anyone by name, the woman was a friend of the minister’s wife. The alleged relationship was apparently busted by the minister’s wife who alerted her friend’s husband who works abroad.
The angry husband followed it up with a “visit” to the minister. A verbal duel followed and ended with the husband assaulting the minister, the report said.
Ganesh and George belong to two parties that were born out of a regional force called the Kerala Congress. The original Kerala Congress, which is often identified with Christian farmers’ causes, eventually became a synonym for splits as faction after faction struck out on their own. The splinter parties use the same name — Kerala Congress — but differentiate themselves by adding an alphabet denoting their respective leader.
So, Ganesh contested election as part of Kerala Congress (B) and George as Kerala Congress (M). B stands for Balakrishna, Ganesh’s father, while M stands for K.M. Mani, a veteran and the current finance minister.
The controversy has drawn more attention because Ganesh is locked in a very public and unending spat with his father, a veteran politician who became the first and only former minister to actually spend time in jail after a corruption conviction.
Ganesh had once given up his berth for his ageing father Balakrishna Pillai after the son became an unexpected success in the government. Critics had then spoken of the Yayati syndrome, referring to the Puranic king who took his son Puru’s youth.
Pillai and his son eventually fell out and do not pull any punches while attacking each other in public.
Ganesh today alleged that George had an axe to grind over the ministry’s stand on reclamation of plantation land in Nelliyampathy in the state’s north. The chief whip had disapproved of Ganesh’s stand that the estates (that stood amid the reserve forests in the area) which violated the title deed agreements should be reclaimed.
Opposition parties had alleged that George was acting at the behest of the forest mafia in opposing moves to take over the estates.
The forest minister also wondered if his “estranged” father was behind George’s latest outburst. Pillai has not commented yet.
Ganesh entered the state cabinet first in 2001, replacing his father who had to step down following an adverse court remark in a case. The son soon made an impression by turning around an ailing state road transport corporation. But he was “forced” to vacate office for the father after the latter was exonerated in the case two years later.
Luck favoured Ganesh again in 2011 with the UDF denying Pillai a ticket after he was sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment by the Supreme Court in a graft case.
Ganesh became the solitary MLA of his father’s party. Pillai, however, came out of prison even before completing his term following a remission granted by the state government. The relationship came under strain again with Pillai insisting that Ganesh was not heeding party diktats. The Ganesh camp, however, termed it a ploy by the father to get the son out of the way.
The scandal has come at a time the father’s camp has asked chief minister Oommen Chandy to expel Ganesh. The chief minister has so far refused to do so but the UDF is scheduled to discuss the issue this week.
George said the “fresh development” would be taken up by the UDF. “It will come up for discussion,” he said.