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When he took office, Pinarayi Vijayan seemed to be a man on a mission: He seemed to have cast off ideological dogmas, and was going to overhaul the system. Photo:
When he took office, Pinarayi Vijayan seemed to be a man on a mission: He seemed to have cast off ideological dogmas, and was going to overhaul the system. Photo:

Pinarayi Vijayan govt to celebrate LDF’s first anniversary in Kerala

A year after LDF came to power, some of the sheen is off Kerala's Communist government led by CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Bengaluru: A year after it came to power riding on great expectations, some of the sheen is off Kerala’s Communist government, led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The previous Congress government—despite high-profile projects to its credit including the Rs5,181 crore Kochi Metro construction and the Rs7,525 crore Vizhinjam trans-shipment terminal (although Comptroller and Auditor General of India has observed on 23 May that interests of Kerala were not protected in the project)—went out in a haze of corruption charges over a fictitious solar power project, issue of bar licences, and infighting within the party.

The sensational murder case of law student Jisha which remained unsolved till election time had added to the sense of stasis.

Naturally, voters were looking for a clean slate. So, when Vijayan opens a two-week celebration of his Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s first anniversary in the capital on Thursday, some of them will be clearly disappointed.

When he took office, Vijayan seemed to be a man on a mission: He seemed to have cast off ideological dogmas, and was going to overhaul the system. His cabinet had 13 first-timers, the most ever, and there was no sign of tokenism or pandering to specific interest groups. He told government officials to work hard for the common good, and that every file before them had the power to make or break someone’s life.

In less than a year, Jacob Thomas, a graft-fighter cop who Vijayan chose to head the vigilance department has gone on leave. In his short tenure, Thomas had aggressively pursued cases against politicians and bureaucrats from the current and former government, angering many. Thomas went on “endless leave" on 31 March, after the Kerala high court on 21 February expressed its displeasure with his actions for a second time.

Meanwhile, T.P. Senkumar, the state police chief who was removed by Vijayan, won his case in the Supreme Court. The government had more egg on its face when an annoyed court imposed a cost on it when it tried to seek clarifications.

At the same time, Senkumar’s replacement Loknath Behera drew fire after his policemen allegedly manhandled the parents of Jishnu Pranoy, who were demanding justice for their son who was found hanging in a college hostel.

In just one year, two of his ministers have quit. While E.P. Jayarajan, minister for industries and sports, had to leave because of nepotism charges, A.K. Saseendran, minister for transport, had to leave following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Meanwhile, violence in the northern district of Kannur which had abated for a while has picked up again. In March, Sriram V., sub collector in Idukki district who had acted against encroachments in the Munnar hill station faced ridicule from a ruling party minister, and Vijayan’s statement backing the minister only served to add fuel to the fire.

The red carpet extended to R. Balakrishna Pillai, a former minister who was sentenced for one year rigorous imprisonment for graft and aligned with the Congress-led front was the latest disappointment for those who had bet on the government’s promises to end corruption. “The moral bankruptcy of the government has come a full circle," said M G Radhakrishnan, political analyst and chief editor of regional news channel Asianet News.

Ironically, Pillai had gone to jail after a 22-year legal battle by veteran left leader V.S. Achuthanandan. Pillai is now chairman of a commission for the welfare of forward castes with a cabinet rank and judicial powers, although without any salary.

Kerala’s Communists have left their old world but have not been able to reach the new world they set out to conquer, said Radhakrishnan.

After coming to power, the LDF has not complained about the Vizhinjam project that they vehemently opposed while in opposition, and appointed so-called neo-liberal economist Gita Gopinath as financial advisor. The government’s attempt to raise Rs50,000 crore from the market in the next five years to spend on infrastructure and social sector too has puzzled those who find it the opposite of left’s practices.

“I will not even give pass mark," says Radhakrishnan.

“The one-year record shows no big breaks, except minor steps that any government would announce. There has been a wave of incidents which show the regime’s arrogance. Most of these issues could have been easily solved, like the case of self-financing colleges, had the government shown some kind of balance or if the chief minister had shown some sense of propriety," he said.

However, the government has been taking small but significant steps, as expected from a front which came to power with the USP of welfare oriented governance. They include increasing pensions, reopening public sector units, building multi-storey complexes for housing the homeless, giving a face-lift to public hospitals, strengthening agriculture, and managing natural resources such as water and forests and so on.

But this will not be enough to save the left from the polarisation arising out of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s presence, said Radhakrishnan.

Vijayan is also battling opposition from within. Mint reported on 1 March about the rumblings of dissent within the front, mainly expressed by Communist Party of India, or CPI, the second largest partner in the government.

“There has not been something shockingly embarrassing for the government, but also not something big to show as achievements. The real results would be visible at the end of second or third year of the government," said Sandeep Shastri, another political analyst and national coordinator of public policy think tank Lokniti Network. “Vijayan realise that anything that happens now will be seen in the context of the national politics and not in the state politics, because of the polarisation from the BJP. It puts in the communists in a very interesting spot."

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