LDF government’s second year ends on dull note(News Analysis)

May 17th, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of ISRO
By Jeevan Mathew Kurian
Kozhikode, May 17 (IANS) It is with a dampened spirit that Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), enters its third year Sunday. The euphoria seen at the start of its second year appears to have all but evaporated.

The government began the year with a lot of energy, evicting encroachers in Munnar, a popular hill station in Idukki district. It also clinched a deal with the Dubai Internet City for the Rs.15-billion Smart City project at Kochi.

However, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan frittered away the good beginning as he fumbled with his widely hailed Munnar mission.

The evictions of encroachers by a task force handpicked by the chief minister won widespread applause. Until then the land mafia had reigned supreme.

But the chief minister was forced to disband his task force when his own allies, including the Communist Party of India (CPI), as well as sections of his own party objected to the demolitions citing a variety of reasons.

The rift within the LDF did not end with Munnar. Issues such as control of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs temples in south Kerala, and lately over the integrated food security scheme have caused a rift between the CPI and the CPI-M.

The government has been forced to put the scheme, aimed at increasing food production, on the backburner because the allies could not agree who will head the ministers’ panel that will oversee it all.

The CPI holds the agriculture portfolio and so wants its minister to lead. But the CPI-M wants the chief minister at the helm.

“The chief minister wants to control all the departments. This is not good for a coalition government,” said Veliyam Bhargavan, the CPI state secretary. But the CPI-M alleges that the CPI is trying to sabotage the scheme.

The loss of rice crops due to the summer rains in Alleppy district has also dented the government’s image. The opposition and the media have put the blame on the CPI-M’s agriculture labourer union, which had opposed the use of machines for harvesting.

The Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is gleefully planning to observe Sunday as “betrayal day”.

“The government has no moral right to celebrate. It has failed to find solutions to people’s problems. There is a lack of communication between the chief minister and his ministers as well as infighting among the LDF constituents. How can there be a celebration?” asked state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala.

Amid the setbacks, however, the industrial sector saw some successful initiatives this year.

Kerala got its first defence production unit when the government handed over the Thiruvananthapuram-based Kerala Hitech Industries Ltd to BrahMos Aerospace, the public sector missile manufacturing company.

The government also succeeded in roping in the Steel Authority of India Ltd to form a joint venture with state-run Steel Complex Ltd, an ailing steel maker in Kozhikode district.

But the government landed in a controversy over the purchase of land to set up an educational institute by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Thiruvananthapuram district.

The ISRO purchased 82 acres of land from a high profile businessman. The opposition alleged that the land belongs to the forest department and that it was sold with the connivance of Forest Minister Binoy Viswom.

The feud in the CPI-M came to the fore at the 19th state party conference at Kottayam in February when CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan wrested control over the party apparatus, sidelining the faction led by Achuthanandan.

After the party conference, the chief minister appeared subdued.

“Achuthanandan has lost much of his steam. He appears a totally changed person and the reasons are quite obvious,” remarked P.C. George, the lone Kerala Congress (Secular) legislator who had aligned with the Left two years ago but is now has biggest critic of the Vijayan faction in the CPI-M.

Undeterred by criticism, the chief minister, a veteran politician, is ready with his agenda for the third year of the LDF government.

“The government will seize all the encroached land. The real estate mafia will be sternly dealt with. The rise in the price of land will be checked,” he declared.

Achuthanandan also promises a law to end of Kerala’s most pressing worries — the rampant reclamation of fields to build houses. He says if necessary he will convene a special session of the Kerala assembly to enact the law.

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