Thiruvananthapuram: Senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy will be sworn in as Kerala chief minister on May 18, bringing an end to the tight race for the key post in the faction-ridden party in the state.
67-year-old Chandy was today unanimously elected by the Congress Legislature Party as its leader, paving the way for his second stint as Chief Minister heading the UDF, which wrested power from LDF by a wafer-thin majority in the April 13 Assembly polls.
Ending uncertainties, Chandy, who enjoyed the support of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, emerged as the sole contender for the top post after KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala opted out of the race.
After a meeting of the 38-member CLP, presided by AICC observers Moshina Kidwai and Madhusudan Mistry, Chennithala announced that Chandy will lead the ministry. "The choice was unanimous and has been endorsed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi," he said.
Emerging from the CLP meet, Chandy said the UDF's slender majority would not come in the way of the Front offering a stable and pro-people administration as the coalition would take it up as their prime task.
Later, a meeting of the UDF leaders to endorse the selection of Chandy as Chief Minister.
Chandy met Governor R S Gavai and staked claim to form the government.
Though there had been reports that Chennithala might pose a challenge to Chandy, he scotched all such speculation, saying he was hurt over some sections of the media dragging his name into being a contender for the post.
He had earlier indicated he would not be part of the government but would concentrate on keeping the party strong and united in his capacity as KPCC President.
Chandy, who won for the 10th time in a row from his pocket borough Puthupally, enjoys the confidence of front partners, crucial in running the government with a majority of just two seats above the half-way mark of 70 in the 140-member house.
Chandy had an interim term as Chief Minister during 2004-06 after A K Antony resigned following the party's rout in the state in 2004 Lok Sabha polls.
He is expected to head a 20-member ministry, with lead partner Congress getting about 10 berths, including of Chief Minister. The second largest component will be given four berths and the Kerala Congress (M) three.
Single-MLA constituents Kerala Congress(Jacob), Kerala Congress(B) and RSP(B) will also be accommodated in the cabinet as their support is vital for the ministry's survival.
The UDF bagged 72 seats in the 140-member assembly, leaving 68 to CPI(M)-led LDF in the April 13 polls under outgoing Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.