On April 27, Kerala rang down the curtains on the 60th anniversary of the first-ever elected government of the State. It’s still a toss-up, whether the first-elected Communist government in the world tag belongs to San Marino, one of the world’s oldest republics, or Kerala. But the debate still continues.
Six decades on, it is yet another communist government that rules the State. And, as in the case of the first one, it is beset with numerous controversies. Sure, unlike the EMS Namboodiripad government that ran its course in 27 months, the Pinarayi Vijayan government has no reason to fear a premature death. But it is showing all the symptoms of an undiagnosed terminal illness which needs some type of surgical intervention.
The LDF cannot have forgotten that it lost no opportunity to rattle the Saritha skeleton whenever Oommen Chandy had an uninterrupted run at governance. Even the election campaign was mounted by reinforcing the ‘women-not-safe perception’ after the Jisha murder.
Working against the LDF government, as often it does for a much-hyped movie, is the level of expectation from the public. It cannot be forgotten that Pinarayi Vijayan, in a bid to topple the UDF government, had unleashed a blitzkrieg. And the attack was a measured mix of charges against acts of both omission and commission by Oommen Chandy and his erstwhile Cabinet colleagues.
Now, it is with a sense of déjá vu and horror that the public is watching a string of unsavoury events unfold. It cannot be wished away that the LDF government, in its eagerness to paint its predecessor wrong, decided to unceremoniously dump T P Senkumar as the State Director General of Police. It has taken the Supreme Court hardly any time to prove the decision wrong and in the process question the unseemly haste shown by the government to set a wrong precedent.
As if nepotism was not bad enough, then came the sleaze charges. Result: Two LDF ministers were forced to quit in a matter of months, the saving grace of course being the government’s claim to taking the moral high ground. True, the manner in which the latter scenario panned out was unethical. But there is no gainsaying the outcome.
Along the way came a slew of student uprisings. It all started off with engineering college student Jishnu Pranoy’s controversial death at Nehru College, Thrissur. Soon, the State was caught up in a flurry of charges, all about some fundamental flaws in the manner higher education institutions were being run in the State. The most visible one, of course, was the Law Academy, Thiruvananthapuram.
Truth be told, in each of these cases things were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that a fire-fighting exercise had to be unleashed before pulling the chestnuts out of the fire. If the government truly believed it never scalded its hands, then one only needs to look at the ham-handed manner in which Jishnu’s mother Mahija was managed by the government, though some of the ‘brutal’ handling by the cops was evidently crafted for public consumption.
One simply cannot sweep under the carpet the blind but naïve faith the government reposed in Jacob Thomas, the self-proclaimed crusader against corruption in high and low places, mostly the former. It was known even to the half-discerning that the LDF government’s honeymoon with an officer who was single-handedly alienating almost the entire bureaucracy, would not last.
It took an observation from the judiciary for the government to see the light, but it’ll take a while before the miffed bureaucracy can be brought around to engaging in an essential activity — administration. If the CPI has as good as muscled out the Congress and its allies from actively essaying the role of the Opposition, clearly there is a strategy behind it. A section of society is convinced the ‘corrective’ tirades by the CPI are more in the form of pre-emptive strikes.
The endgame: Any offensive by the Congress-led Opposition will be seen as a ‘me-too’ effort and thus lose their sting. But a majority of the public believes the smaller party in the coalition is losing no opportunity to get into a one-upmanship game with the big brother, with the larger game plan of staking claim as the ‘true’ Communist party.
It’s not as if the government is not getting things done:
*It was a historic decision to create a `900-crore corpus to write off education loans and the relief it will bring to the families of thousands of students.
*Kerala Cooperative Bank to be formed in the next couple of years, with an eye on the `4.67 lakh crore deposit base in the State. The attempt would be to ensure a bulk of these deposits will fund development in the State and resolve issues faced by the likes of the Ernakulam Cooperative Bank which could lend `470 crore for the Kochi Metro Rail project, but was unable to join the Kannur Airport lenders’ consortium.
*For a political dispensation that has almost always opposed acquisition of land from PSUs, the LDF government is proudly shouting about the petrochemical park to be built at a cost of `1,864 crore by KINFRA on 600 acres of land originally held by FACT.
If this is a sign of things to come, then there would be more surprises being sprung by the LDF government sooner or later. Reason: Kerala is sitting on another 1,619 acres of similar land presently held by PSUs, with an aggregate value of `19,544 crore.
The best way to draw the attention of the public from unwanted controversies and spats within either the political or the bureaucratic spectrum, is the development story. Today, on May Day, the LDF government should take an oath to keep off conflict areas, as they are minefields waiting to explode. And it always doesn’t need a rustic leader like Mani, with a licence-for-loose talk, to set things off.
As its first anniversary beckons on May 25, the chief minister could set the tone for what is to follow in the second year. By resolving to take his foot off the confrontation pedal, and instead rev up the growth engine.
Resident Editor, Kerala