In a bind already over charges of nepotism following appointment of a number of friends and relatives of state CPI-M leaders to plum posts in PSUs, the four-month-old Pinarayi Vijayan government faces a test by fire on Friday at the party's Secretariat meeting which could see some heads roll.
Vijayan's troubles started with the revelation that state Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, the number two in the government, has appointed his close relatives to top posts in the state's public sector undertakings (PSUs).
It is widely expected that Friday's meeting could well ask the Kannur strong man to step down as part of the damage-control exercise.
The Congress-led Opposition and the BJP are now breathing down Vijayan's neck, with Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala saying: "This can't happen without Vijayan's knowledge."
"Where is that official (Vigilance Director) moving around with red and yellow cards? I have given a written complaint to him against nepotism. Just by saying 'it's holidays here', the probe can't be deferred," Chennithala told reporters here on Monday.
Vigilance Director Jacob Thomas was appointed by Vijayan at the first Cabinet meeting in May this year.
After being appointed Vigilance Director, Thomas took out two cards -- yellow and red, similar to the ones carried by football referees -- suggesting that he would be very strict against corruption.
On Monday, the CPI mouthpiece 'Janayugam' carried an editorial condemning these appointments and demanding strong action, so as to win back the confidence of the people, who never expected such a thing from the Left government.
With Jayarajan's name surfacing, the media here has started to come out with more such appointments, like the kin of senior and middle-level leaders of the CPI-M being appointed as government pleaders, while the ordinary rank and file are relegated to be just part of protest marches and strikes.
Disapproving of such appointments, veteran CPI-M leader M.M. Lawrence said: "The party and the government should quickly take corrective steps to get back the confidence of the people.
"The LDF came to power following a strong stand taken by the people against corruption and these things should never happen again."
Party sources here said Friday's meeting is going to be very crucial. With a very strong anti-Jayarajan feeling in the party's rank and file, Vijayan will have to take a tough call, they averred.
According to the sources, Jayarajan will be asked to step down, and one of the senior party legislators like Suresh Kurup, Raju Abraham or James Mathew may be asked to take his place.
Vijayan had on Sunday dropped some hints about the shape of things to come, saying: "The LDF is not like UDF and the CPI-M is not like the Congress."
However, whether Jayarajan goes or stays, Vijayan government's credibility has certainly taken a beating.
Even though a few in the Chandy government had also attracted allegations of corruption, and the then LDF in opposition had demanded that such ministers quit, only state Finance Minister K.M. Mani resigned -- that too only after the Kerala High Court intervened.
"If the Chandy government's stock fell after three years, here this has happened after just three-four months," said a CPI-M leader preferring anonymity.