Thiruvananthapuram: Hours after a minister in his government was forced to resign after being accused of domestic abuse by his wife, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is fire-fighting a political crisis.
The opposition today demanded that Mr Chandy should resign "on moral grounds" because he had misrepresented the facts of his former minister's marriage.
KB Ganesh Kumar belongs to the Congress (B) and was Forest Minister in the coalition government led by Mr Chandy. He said last evening that he would not quit office despite his wife's allegations against him, but resigned a few hours later declaring that he did not want to embarrass the chief minister. Mr Kumar, an actor-turned-politician, said he was filing for divorce and released photographs of his bruised face as evidence that his wife had attacked him.
In a police complaint last night, his wife Yamini Thankachy said that she had been a victim of domestic violence for 14 years.
She said that she had shared her story of abuse with the chief minister, and that he had promised to mediate, but that she had been "cheated" by people she trusted.
Speaking on the floor of the house today, the Chief Minister rejected the allegations against him and said he reported the matter to the police as soon as he got written complaints from Ms Thankachy. "Yamini Thankachy met me on Monday evening and handed me two letters of complaints dated April 1 and March 7. I asked her if she had given these letters on March 6 when she came to meet me. She said she had it in her car. I promptly handed over the letters to the Director General of Police the moment I received them," he said.
Dissatisfied with his response, opposition leaders, led by VS Achuthanandan, walked out of the Assembly.
Mr Kumar's removal from cabinet has been urged by his estranged father, R Balakarishna, who heads the Congress (B).
Recently, a Kerala newspaper published a report that a minister was beaten up by the husband of a woman with who he was having an affair.
A senior government leader, P C George, acknowledged that Mr Kumar was the minister referred to in the report.
Since then senior ministers including Labour Minister Shibu Baby John have allegedly tried to negotiate a compromise between Mr Kumar and his wife, largely because Mr Chandy's government has a tiny majority of just five legislators, and Mr Kumar had reportedly threatened that if he was made to quit as minister, he would resign from the assembly as well, leaving the government deeply vulnerable to collapse.
The 46-year-old Mr Kumar and Ms Thankachy have been married for 18 years. They have two children.