Antony isn’t a man of many words. But the Congress party in Kerala, facing the ire of its coalition partners are playing down Union Defense Minister and former Kerala chief minister AK Antony’s attack on his longtime friend and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for not providing an environment conducive to defense development projects. Antony even questioned the integrity of Oommen Chandy’s government praising its bugbear VS Achutanandan of having done a better job.
He expressed his discontent over the state Congress leaders expressing their opinions against each other in open very frequently. Antony, while speaking at meeting at the BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited (BATL) said, “Till 2011, I got in six units of my department into Kerala, but now I don’t have the courage to get another one here because the attitude towards the defence establishments insn’t proper.” His statements have given the opposition parties ample confidence.
Antony patted the previous CPM-led LDF government and VS Achuthanandan for its ‘pro-development’ policies. There’s a larger dimension to Antony’s speech. It goes well with his new charge as the chief of the pre-poll alliance sub-group under the Congress Coordination Committee for 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Said a source, “Antony is intelligent enough to sense the discontent in the party cadre and the public. Chandy and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala conveniently ignore this.” The previous LDF Government had supported Antony’s efforts to bring defence establishments to the state.
Welcoming his remarks, CPM Politburo member Sitaram Yechuri said that the LDF has got a new ally in A K Antony. His outburst has given an impetus to the Congress’ ‘green MLAs’ (they gave the party the ‘environment-friendly’ image), who have been voicing concern over the dominating allies and Chandy’s appeasement policies. K Muraleedharan had come openly against the arm-twisting tactics of the IUML and Kerala Congress (M), the two major partners in the UDF, gave the thumbs-up to Antony’s verbal volleys, senior leaders Sudheeran and Aryadan Mohammed maintained silence.
Antony criticised the government, in the presence of Industries Minister and Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty. The Muslim League had brought much disgrace to the government through the controversy over the fifth ministership and for appeasing its supporters and constituencies by allegedly transporting major developmental projects to party stronghold in Malappuram. Perhaps it could be the IUML’s wayward policies that have brought together the two prominent Hindu community outfits, the NSS of Nairs and the SNDP of Ezhavas.
Leaders of both the communities had called for the inclusion of KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala in the cabinet. Many believe that Antony was irked by Chandy’s refusal to assign Home portfolio to Ramesh Chennithala to pacify the Hindu outfits who raised their voice over the communal imbalance following the cabinet reshuffle to add the fifth Muslim League minister. In the reshuffle, Chandy sacrificed the Home portfolio by assigning the same to his trusted follower Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan overlooking the seniority of a true secular and efficient Aryadan Muhammed. While Aryadan became minister for the first time in 1977, Thiruvanchoor made it to the assembly only in 1991. Meanwhile, Chandy has a difficult task running a feeble coalition government.
The major coalition partners are taking every opportunity to develop their constituncies. He doesn’t enjoy an image like Antony in the public or the Congress high command. Antony’s negative remarks are casting a cloud over Chandy’s chief ministership. The UDF is closing ranks to overcome the embarrassment—the same trio of Antony, Chandy and Kunhalikutty shared a dais while inaugurating HAL strategic factory at Seethangoli in the district.
- Sunday Standard