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Pinarayi Vijayan on cusp of new electoral chapter

He will become the 3rd CM in Kerala to be re-elected and 1st to continue in office after a full term. He will also assume heftier stature than anyone else in CPM

Published: 01st May 2021 06:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2021 06:19 AM   |  A+A-

Governor P Sathasivam administers the oath of office to Pinarayi Vijayan, the new chief minister of Kerala, during the swearing-in ceremony on May 25, 2016

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With just a day left for the assembly poll counting, Left strongman Pinarayi Vijayan could well be on the path to rewriting history. Going by the prevailing political sentiment in the state, the 76-year-old CPM leader could become only the third Chief Minister in Kerala history to be re-elected and the first to continue in office after completing a full term. An LDF win would be just the second instance of a ruling front receiving consecutive terms. Political observers feel such a development could lead to major political realignments in the state. 

C Achutha Menon was the first to get re-elected, followed by K Karunakaran. Achutha Menon became CM after the end of the 1967 EMS government. He resigned from the Rajya Sabha and took over in November 1969. It was a new coalition and government. In 1970, the state went to polls again and Achutha Menon was re-elected. 

In 1980, the E K Nayanar government rose to power with the support of the A K Antony-led Congress faction. “Later, the Antony faction left the government. In turn, there was a change of guard and Karunakaran took over in 1981 December. That was more of a makeshift arrangement with constant casting votes and other similar tactics. In May 1982, Karunakaran retained power,” reminisced Left commentator Appukkuttan Vallikkunnu. 

Technically, if re-elected, Pinarayi would become the third CM to retain power. But he will be the first to do so after helming a government for five years. In 1977, the Congress front government was led by CPI’s Achutha Menon. Though the front returned to power in the polls held after Emergency, it was Karunakaran who headed the government. Hence, a comeback to power for Pinarayi would undoubtedly be a first of its kind in Kerala politics.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan greeting the gathering at a public meeting at Kozhikode beach on March 28, 2021, ahead of the Assembly elections

Vallikkunnu, however, says such scenarios had played out for the Left even in the past. The 1987 Nayanar government was on a strong footing at the time, and wanting to cash in on the same, went for elections after just four years, to coincide with the West Bengal polls. Similarly, in 2011, the V S Achuthanandan government too stood a strong chance of a comeback, but the party itself was not keen on VS getting another term, Vallikkunnu said. 

A second term in office for Pinarayi will see major political realignments, thereby paving the way for Left forces to tilt towards the right of centre, said political scientist J Prabhash. “Left politics would indeed be majorly affected. Over time, the Pinarayi government has become less Left, and CPM stands to be more right-centric in future. Secondly, Pinarayi would assume a heftier stature than anyone else in the party, including the top party brass. He’s already the tallest leader at the moment. A victory would further legitimise his claim. With a verdict in his favour, he’ll cement his position and officially formalise his position in the Left, for all purposes,” Prabhash pointed out.

A defeat for UDF could well sound the death knell for the Congress, not only in Kerala but at the national level too. On the other hand, for BJP, even if defeated, it can at least hope to rebuild itself on the ruins of an utterly decaying Congress party. Irrespective of all assessments, the fact remains that Pinarayi is the only leader now in Kerala capable of bagging a second term. “Both the party and the front fought these polls by leaning on him alone,” added Prabhash. What stands between Pinarayi and history could be just a few seats. The game lies in the numbers, as they say!

HALF A DECADE IN A NUTSHELL

As the state gears up for the assembly election results on May 2, TNIE takes a look at the major developments during the Pinarayi regime 

Ministers’ resignations

April 13, 2021.
Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel resigned after state Lokayukta found him guilty of nepotism. 

November 27, 2018. 
Water Resources Minister Mathew T Thomas resigned as part of inner party agreement to induct K Krishnankutty as minister.

November 15, 2017. 
Late Thomas Chandy, then transport minister, resigned following allegations of violation of land-related laws and encroachment of backwaters for his resort in Alappuzha. 

March 26, 2017. 
Transport Minister A K Saseendran compelled to resign after a sleaze talk row. The minister from NCP was replaced by party colleague Thomas Chandy within four days. Ten months later, Thiruvananthapuram Judicial First Class Magistrate Court acquitted him  citing lack of evidence and he was reinstated later.

October 14, 2016.
Industries minister E P Jayarajan stepped down on the 142nd day of the LDF govt following nepotism allegations. He was reinstated after vigilance gave him clean chit.

Flood, gold and furore

Ockhi, November 2017 
Cyclone Ockhi struck the country, killing 365 people across the nation, including around 60 fishermen from Kerala. As many as 102 fishermen went missing and were later presumed dead by the government. 

Mega flood, August 16, 2018: 
The flood that devastated Kerala in August 2018, following unprecedented monsoon downpour, was among the five extreme floods in the world between 2015 and 2019. As many as 433 people died. The total economic loss was estimated at D31,000 crore.

Distillery brewery, Oct 2018. 
The Opposition alleged that the state govt flouted norms in issuing licenses to three breweries in Kannur, Palakkad and Ernakulam. Within five days, the govt was forced to cancel the licences, much to the Opposition’s delight.

LS poll debacle, May 23, 2019:
UDF trounced LDF by walking away with 19 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state. LDF only won the Alappuzha seat.

Second flood: August 8, 2019:
Before the state could recuperate from the mega flood of 2018 fully, another deluge struck. Heavy rain and landslides between August 8 and 26 left 125 people dead, while 17 went missing. As many as 1,795 houses were damaged fully and 14,559 were damaged partially.

Covid, January 30, 2020:
On January 30 last year, India’s first Covid-19 case was reported from Kerala. Though the second wave this year is witnessing a steady spike in the number of cases, the state’s fight against the virus has been hailed as a model for the country.

Food kits, March 2020. 
The food kit distribution started by the LDF Government when Covid stuck in March 2020 has been continuing as the second wave of the virus wreaks havoc. The kits, containing essential groceries that a family would require for a month, were made available to all ration cardholders.

Sprinklr row, April 2020: 
Following strong criticism from various quarters, mainly the Opposition and privacy rights activists, the LDF government backed out of its deal with US firm Sprinklr for managing data of Covid-19 patients.

BevQ app, May 2020: 
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the government favoured an inexperienced firm with political links to CPM leadership to develop BevQ, a mobile app for virtual queue management at Bevco outlets, and bypassed public sector entities like C-DIT and National Informatics Centre.

Gold smuggling case, July 5, 2020: 
The sensational gold smuggling case came to light on July 5 last year after customs seized 30kg of the yellow metal from a diplomatic consignment addressed to the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram. Since then, 20 people have been named in the chargesheet and booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. More than quantity of the gold, it was the relationship of accused Swapna Suresh with top bureaucrats and political leaders that created a big political storm in Kerala. Former principal secretary to the CM was arrested in the case.

CPM-CPI confrontations

CPM and CPI leadership were at loggerheads over the suicide of Jishnu Pranoy, a first-year engineering student belonging to Palakkad on January 6, 2017. 

In January 2017, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran criticised Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the manner in which information of details regarding politics of violence in Kannur were not made available under RTI Act.

NIA’s arrest of Alan Shuhaib and Thwaha Fasal on November 1, 2019, did not go down well with CPI. 
Custodial deaths of Sreejith, 26, of Varapuzha on April 9, 2018, and Raj Kumar, 49, of Nedumkandam on June 21, 2019, saw a war of words between the LDF allies. 

CPI state council condemned the November 3, 2020, killing of Maoist Velmurugan by Thunderbolt commandos in Wayanad.

Civic body elections, December 16, 2020
LDF, which faced a drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, made a comeback in the civic body elections the nest year, winning in more than half of the state’s grama panchayats, two-thirds of the district panchayats and four out of six corporations.

Service and welfare pensions, Jan 2021
As per the 11th Kerala Pay Revision Commission, minimum basic pension was increased to D11, 500 and maximum to D83, 400. The minimum basic family pension was increased to D11,500 and maximum to D50,400. Welfare pension was raised to D1,600 from D1,500 earlier.



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