In an embarrassment to the ruling Congress-led UDF, forest minister KB Ganesh Kumar was forced to quit after his wife levelled charges of domestic violence, a development that triggered opposition demand for Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy's resignation.
A file photo of Kerala minister KB Ganesh Kumar who quit after his wife alleged domestic violence. PTI
Kumar, who initially took a defiant stand on the charges levelled by his wife Yamini Thankachi as "totally baseless" and also ruled out his resignation till Monday evening, later drove to the chief minister's residence and submitted his resignation.
The Kerala Congress (B) leader, who resigned after his wife lodged a police complaint alleging domestic violence, stated in his resignation letter that he was quitting "owing to personal reasons."
But later Kumar said his resignation was the "prize" for his fight against corruption, alluding to his tiff with sections in the United Democratic Front over his firm stand against those "illegally" holding vast stretches of forest land beyond lease terms.
The exit of the 46-year-old actor-turned-politician became imminent after Chandy advised him to put in his papers.
Seizing the issue, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front in the state assembly demanded the chief minister's resignation accusing him of misleading the House that he had not received any complaint from Kumar's wife.
As soon as the assembly began its proceedings, the LDF members were on their feet alleging Chandy had lost moral right to remain in office and demanded an immediate discussion over the issue.
The House had adjournment for a brief spell after opposition members insisted for a discussion even as speaker G Karthikeyan promised to permit a debate during zero hour.
The long-running incompatibility between the couple reached a flashpoint yesterday with Kumar filing a divorce petition in a court here.
While Kumar charged his wife of "blackmailing" and "manhandling", Yamini rejected the allegations and asserted she was a victim of "domestic violence" for the last 16 years after she objected to her husband's "illicit affairs".
Yamini also alleged that she could not get justice from the chief minister whom she had approached with a complaint.
Kumar, a second time MLA from Pathanapuram in Kollam district, had a tough time right from the start of his second stint as minister with his father and Kerala Congress (B) supremo R Balakrishna Pillai calling for his withdrawal.
Pillai, who was serving one-year prison term in a corruption case when the Chandy ministry assumed office in May 2011, had accused his son of disregarding the "interests of the party and its workers."
Kumar, who has made mark in Malayalam cinema in supporting roles before plunging into politics as successor of his father, came under a cloud after a Malayalam newspaper reported a month back stating a Kerala minister was beaten up by the husband of a lady with whom he had an affair.
The next day, government chief whip PC George of the Kerala Congress (M) alleged at a press meet that the minister referred in the report was Kumar.
The Ganesh Kumar affair took an unsavoury turn after a truce brokered by the UDF leadership among the minister, his estranged father and Yamini proved tenuous.
Yamini also blamed the chief minister claiming that she had approached him with a complaint, but he dissuaded from pressing it and promised that he would intervene and settle the family dispute.
The opposition leaders, within and outside the assembly, accused Chandy of having committed a serious mistake by not revealing the details of Yamini's complaint by contending that he did not receive any "written complaint" from her.
Making a statement in the House, Kumar said he was "victim of a conspiracy" which was the result of his firm stand against encroachment of forest land and corrupt dealings.
He said he was "trapped in a false case" and was confident that his innocence would be proved through a fair and honest inquiry.
Kumar said he resigned on moral grounds as he believed that public servants should uphold certain values. Thanking the chief minister for support extended to him during his tenure as forest minister, Kumar said he would continue his fight against corruption.
Denying the LDF allegation that he tried to "shield" Kumar, Chandy said he had only interfered in the issue with "good intention" by finding an amicable solution to the "domestic affairs" of his colleague.
A truce was worked out between Kumar and Yamini and an agreement was signed. However, "some hitches" cropped up at the implementation stage and the issue turned controversial after Monday's developments, Chandy said.
The petition submitted by Yamini alleging domestic violence has been forwarded to the Kerala police chief for taking necessary steps under the law, he said.
"I have not done any mistake. The only thing I did was that I intervened in the issue with a good intention to resolve a family dispute and tried to bring them (Kumar and his wife) together," Chandy said.
Rejecting the Opposition allegation that he had refused to accept the petition against Kumar, Chandy stuck to his position that Yamini did not submit any petition against his Cabinet colleague when she met him on March 6.
"I also stick to my statement that no one from outside beat up Ganesh Kumar at his residence as reported in the media," Chandy added.
The opposition, however, kept on shouting slogans against Chandy demanding his resignation contending that he had breached oath of office by extending undue favour to a Cabinet colleague ignoring the plea of a woman for justice.
As the House plunged into turmoil, the speaker adjourned the House for the day.
However, in a relief to the three-year-old Chandy ministry surviving on a thin margin of 3 MLAs in the 140-member House, Kumar made it clear that he was not going to resign his assembly membership.
He requested the speaker to allot him a seat in the treasury benches in the House.
Earlier, there had been speculation that Kumar might resign his assembly membership in the event of his quitting the cabinet, further eroding the majority of the ruling coalition.
Kumar is the first minister to quit the cabinet after the UDF came to power in 2011 winning 72 MLAs and the LDF bagging 68 seats.
UDF's tally, however, rose to 73 after CPI-M's R Selvaraj from Neyyattinkara resigning from his seat and getting re-elected on Congress ticket in a by-election that followed.