Running a government with a wafer thin majority has its pitfalls and shortcomings. And, if it is a coalition, it is all the more gruelling. Despite, his mass support base, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is slowly becoming a victim of circumstances. Actions and words of some ministers and leaders from within the Congress and coalition parties have become a major source of embarrassment for Chandy.
With the embers of factionalism in the state Congress apparatus always warm, Chandy’s woes have only worsened.
The latest in the series of unpleasant incidents which went on an overdrive was the spat between Kerala Congress stalwart leader and Finance-Law Minister K M Mani, and Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, over the circulation of a draft bill, the Kerala Land Use Bill, on conversion of paddy land for industrial uses.
The verbal dual between the two has gone overboard to the extent of even questioning the collective responsibility of the Oommen Chandy Cabinet. Prakash, charges of being kept in dark, while Mani holds the view that the revenue minister would not have openly engaged in a row without the tacit approval of the chief minister.
Just a few days ago, the irrepressible Kannur MP K Sudhakaran spewed venom and used foul language against a police Sub Inspector (SI) at Valappattanam, in Kannur district, after storming the station with his supporters seeking the release of two local Congress leaders who were booked for allegedly running illegal sand mining.
Home Minister Tiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, a Chandy confidante, treaded cautiously and saw to it that Sudhakaran does not get much mileage out of it. Radhakrishnan is firm about going ahead with the police case against Sudhakaran for threatening the police officer. This resulted in a poster war between the supporters of the MP and the minister in various parts of the state. Posters hailing Congress leader Sudhakaran and targeting Radhakrishnan were put up in Talimparamba. The posters carried a warning to the home minister. A few posters on behalf of the Youth Congress warned that Radhakrishnan would not be allowed to set foot in the district.
It also brings to fore the factional feud between the ‘I’ and ‘A’ group. Sudhakaran is aligned with the ‘I’ group, which is led by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, while Chandy is seen as the captain of the ‘A’ group.
“The home minister says that he is keen to protect the morale of the police. For me, it is the morale of the Congress workers which is more important,” Sudhakaran said, when contacted by The Sunday Standard. “The chief minister is incapable of effective control. He is only interested in protecting his chair,” the MP fumed.
Though maintaining cordial relations outwardly, Chennithala has also begun to express his displeasure at the way critical issues are handled by Oommen Chandy. “He should assert over the coalition parties at the appropriate time. By remaining silent, he is only inviting trouble,” Chennithala told The Sunday Standard. He did some plain speaking at a full-fledged, day long UDF meet held at Kovalam last week, putting the IUML and Kerala Congress in place. He asked the leaders of the two parties to do some introspection on why they are being blamed now by the civil society, hinting at the widespread disgust spreading over the politics of bargaining and playing the communal card.
K Muraleedharan MLA, son of the late chief minister K Karunakaran, continues to be rebellious, cashing in on every opportunity to strike against the government and Chandy. “All are worried at the current course of the government. So many good things are being charted by the government but it is not trickling down to the grassroots level. If it moves like this, the end result needn’t be explained by anyone,” warns Muraleedharan, who is keen to rake up the ISRO espionage case again.
Though the Kovalam UDF meet began on a tense note with coalition partners going tom-tom against the Congress and the KPCC president hitting back, it ended with outwardly display of friendship and trust. Chennithala also gave the message to Chandy that the one man show is not going to work, by insisting that all the issues confronting the government is borne from the lack of discussions on policy matters.
Adding to the woes of Chandy is the allegation that two peons from his personal staff were found indulging in petty corruption. Though, yet to be proved, both of them were summarily removed from the chief minister’s official team, but the stink remains.
At a time when the state is confronting a row over overt and covert moves for paddy field filling, the recommendations for amending the Kerala Land Use Bill invited instant wrath. Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash (Congress) and Agriculture Minister K P Mohanan (Janata Dal) opposed it, citing that they were not consulted .The proposals were sent to the department secretaries only. The recommendations of the two commission reports, one submitted in 2003 and the V R Krishna Iyer Committee recommendations submitted during the tenure of the previous LDF government, were passed on to the departments concerned for eliciting their views as a routine procedure. The reports had not come in for a scrutiny so far. Along with the land Use Bill, five more proposed laws including Infrastructure Development Bill, IT, Green Cess, Labour and Industry Bills were also forwarded to various departments. The UDF meet came to a conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the law department in circulating the proposals and seeking opinion and gave a clean chit to Mani.
- Sunday Standard