Progenies as ministers Friday, Jun 3 2011 

The Oommen Chandy Ministry, which assumed power in Kerala this month, has several progenies of past Ministers and political leaders.

The Muslim League has two ministers —M. K. Muneer, son of C. H. Muhammed Koya and P. K. Abdu Rubb, son of Avukhader Kutty Naha.  Agriculture Minister K. P. Mohanan is the son of former Minister P. R. Kurup, Forest Minister K. B. Ganesh Kumar is son of former Minister R. Balakrishna Pillai and Shibhu Baby John is son of former Minister Baby John.

It is not infrequent for sons to follow the profession of their fathers. Partly, this is a remnant of ‘caste system’ under which the sons always took up the occupation of their fathers.  Chaturvarnya was designed for that. The State is yet to forfeit our casteist leanings.

However, more than that, large number of progenies in the ministry indicates favouritism and cronyism prevalent in the political parties. It is also point to a barrier existing in political parties in rising to the top of the ladder if you don’t have a father or god father in politics. It is notable that many of sons rising in politics get their opportunities early in life whereas others usually have to work for a life time to obtain positions like ministerships.

Leaders like K C. Joseph (Congress) who have many years of work as member of the Assembly and Gandhian behind him, get the chance to become a minister only after decades. The media knowingly or unknowingly support this trend by projecting the sons of established leaders. One reporter of a Malayalam daily even wrote that the Muslim League had favoured Muneer despite his ‘anti-party positions’ considering that he was the son of C. H. Mohammed Koya.  However, the Congress had failed to show similar considerations for K. Muraleedharan, son of K. Karuranakaran, his criticised (!).

Progenies will cease to have undue advantage in seizing power only if we change our mindsets.

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Cabinet demonstrates gross irresponsibility Thursday, Apr 8 2010 

The Kerala Governor’s address to the Assembly this year, which did not, truly, had the approval of the State Cabinet points to gross irresponsibility.

The Chief Minister, V. S. Achuthanandan, has denied that the speech did not have the approval of the Cabinet. However, facts that had come out through information obtained under the Right to Information and Act and widely reported in the media suggests that the Chief Minister taking refuge in the fact that a Cabinet subcommittee had finalised the speech on authorization from the Cabinet. However, this has no constitutional validity according to the Opposition.

However, the incident is a symptom of a chronic disease. KeralaViews has written in the past about the lack of collective responsibility and deterioration if not absence of governance. It has also written about the itinerant Ministers who hardly attend to the job they had been entrusted with. And the Assembly failing to keep a tab on the Government. Having failed in administering the State properly, the Ministers are now turning to large scale distribution of benefits including title deeds for land to win the coming elections.

The Cabinet has actually shown disrespect to the Assembly by sending the Governor to the House with a speech that the Cabinet Ministers had not cared to read and approve. It can even be considered a breach of privilege of the House whatever be the explanation that would be offered by the Chief Minister.

Congress to consoldidate position in Kerala, West Bengal Thursday, May 28 2009 

New Union Ministry after swearing in -PIB Photo

New Union Ministry after swearing in -PIB Photo

While the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala could not put its house in order, the Indian National Congress is making moves to strengthen its position in Kerala and West Bengal.

The failed leaders of the CPI (M) Pinarayi Vijayan and V. S. Achuthanandan do not have the grace to step down owing responsibility for the debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. It is not just that they don’t believe in democratic norms. They are entangled in a bitter battle that none could withdraw without conceding defeat. At least for the time being, the party is unable to push them out, or end the quarrel.

Party general secretary Prakash Karat is in no position to assert himself with the West Bengal unit demanding his resignation over the poll debacle. The decision to withdraw support to UPA Government before th elections has cost the party a share in power at the Centre. Now, the Congress-Trinamool combine would leave no stone unturned to wrest power from the Left in West Bengal.

The Congress has already taken steps to consolidate its position in both the States. It has named eight members of the Parliament from West Bengal and six from Kerala as Ministers. Two of them each are of Cabinet rank. The portfolios allotted to them are also significant. Minister of State E. Ahamed gets Railways while Minister of State K. V. Thomas gets Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies. These are areas in which the State had been continuously accusing the Centre of neglect. It is clear that the Centre is not for confrontation with the State Government. On the other hand, it plans to win over the people.

One only have to recall the performance of BJP leader O. Rajagopal in 2004 elections to assess the opportunity that is opening up before E. Ahamed. Mr. Rajgopal’s contributions to the State as Minister of State for Railways had won acclaim and at least a lakh votes from politically uncommitted voters in Trivandrum.

Mullappally Ramachandran may also been tactically placed in the Home Ministry. He can address the concerns of Keralites about law and order and terrorism. If needed, he can also take on the CPI (M) politically over its handling of the police.

Bhishma(Krishna Iyer)’s advice in SNC Lavalin case Thursday, May 14 2009 

Jurist V. R. Krishna Iyer has come out with an article criticising Opposition parties in Kerala for urging the Governor R. S. Gavai to take an independent decision on the CBI’s request for prosecution of CPI (M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case (The Hindu dated. May 14).

This blog would not have attempted to look critically at the article of the former Supreme Court judge of such eminence, if Mr. Iyer himself had not provided the points to contradict him. (For Arjunas who want to fell Pinarai, these are Bhishma’s words. Hope Mr. Chandy and his lieutenants would make use of them).

Mr. Iyer says, quoting a Supreme Court verdict, that Governor as the British Queen is bound to follow the Cabinet’s advice except in rare exceptions in which the Cabinet decision is irrational or arbitrary or perverse or plainly and blatantly biased or mala fide.

He further adds:  “In the present case, unless an exceptional situation has arisen, or the Cabinet decision is irrational, manifestly biased or intentionally calculated to save a constitutional authority, the rule that the tenant of the Raj Bhavan is bound by the Cabinet ruling and the Governor cannot substitute his separate judgment or that of any jurists who may be his favourites to make the Cabinet’s clear resolution impotent, should prevail.”

He also says that the Advocate General has exonerated Mr. Vijayan. Unless there is some manifest bias on his part in Mr. Vijayan’s favour, the Cabinet should adopt his advice.

Now, all that the Governor has to do is to look at the circumstances of the Cabinet decision if he wants to find the justifications needed for using his discretion.

Let us look at a few of the criteria offered by Mr. Iyer:

Irrationality: Is it not irrational for the Advocate General to exonerate an accused in a case investigated by a legally constituted body (CBI)? Trial and acquittals are the domain of courts, and not the Advocate General. The Advocate General took the decision without seeking all the documents he had called for and the Cabinet says that it took the decision after examining all the “available” documents.

Manifest bias: This is clear from the sequence of things from the party secretariat’s repeated interventions and the political pressure on the Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan. Calculated actions of the CPI (M) to thwart prosecution was evident and the Chief Minister had stood against that.

Intentionally calculating: Do we need any more proof for that than the conduct of the CPI(M) leaders and their statements?  But the Governor may find it difficult to get all that documented.

Mala fide: If reported remarks of CPI leaders are to be believed, the Cabinet had also decided to exonerate the officials involved without the full knowledge of at least the CPI Ministers.

Mr. Krishna Iyer suggests that the Opposition could call the Advocate Genereal to the Assembly to seek clarifications about his advice. However, even the Chief Minister was not able to do so. His suggestion in this regard was reportedly turned down by the other  (intentionally calculating?) Ministers.

It is to be noted that the recommendation of the Cabinet regarding prosecution of a former member of the Cabinet is different from the Cabinet’s advice to the Governor on other matters of the State. The Governor is the appointing authority of the Cabinet and it rules during the pleasure of the Governor. He exercises his discretion in calling party leaders to form Ministry. If one of the minister of his government commits a crime it should be the concern of the Governor.

UDF imposes another hartal on the people Wednesday, May 6 2009 

The Congress led United Democratic Front in Kerala is imposing another hartal on the people for its own failures.

The hartal is in protest against the Cabinet’s recommendation to the Governor against prosecution of the CPI (M) State secretary Pinarai Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case. The case pertains to the period when Pinarai was the Power Minister in the LDF Cabinet that came to power a decade ago. After that, the UDF had ruled the State for five years.

Five years was enough time for the government to conclude an investigation and permit prosecution. But the UDF Government was keen on withdrawing the Palmolein corruption case against Congress leader K. Karunakaran rather than pursuing the case against Pinarai, especially when the present Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy was the Chief Minister.

After the investigation was entrusted to the CBI, the Congress had been in power at the Centre. However, the CBI sat on the investigation as along as the CPI (M) was supporting the Government at the Centre. Then, it acted and sought sanction from the Governor for the prosecution, which he referred to the Government.

The Advocate General, who is a political nominee of the CPI (M) has given a legal opinion against prosecution despite the CBI listing Pinarai as the ninth accused after an investigation supervised by the courts. The CPI (M) intervened to force the decision by the Cabinet against feeble objections raised by the Chief Minister.

The case has never been vigourously by the Congress. Now, in view of media criticism about its dilly dallying, the party is imposing another hartal on the people. Thus both the UDF and LDF becoming party to subversion of rule of the law in the State.

Kerala Cabinet to stage dharna in Delhi Tuesday, Oct 7 2008 

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan with a few of his Cabinet colleagues

V. S. Achuthanandan with a few of his Cabinet colleagues

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan is proud of his plan to go to Delhi and stage a dharna there on October 17. He says that it is because he would be expounding people’s cause. His protest is against the Centre neglecting the States demands for better quotas of grain, power and other concessions.

However, he would be striking a blow to Indian federalism. Such actions reflect weakening of our institutional systems. One need not doubt that the Chief Minister has genuine grievances when he leads his Cabinet and State legislatures to Delhi in protest. But it is also to be observed that both the State and Central governments have failed to deal with each other in an effective and fair manner. The Members of Parliament, representing the State, have failed to play their role effectively in Parliament. Why could not they represent the State properly? All 20 of them were supporting the UPA Government until recently.

There is also little doubt the Chief Minister has other compulsions in rushing tot the Centre at this juncture. It is part of his strategy for winning seats for his Front in the coming Lok Sabha elections. So, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should take the matter seriously and deal with it in a statesman like manner. It is in the country’s interest that the two leaders settle their differences, if any, over the table rather than on the streets. Petty politics should not come in the way of settlement. For the Indian Union shall not become a wonderland of an emperor, empress and satraps.

The UDF response is typical. It will stage a dharna and disrupt traffic before the Secretariat on the same day (October 17) against tariff hikes. Well, they can easily forget that prices have risen all over India.

Related: Power crisis in Kerala

Cacophony of Kerala Cabinet on display in Legislature Thursday, Feb 28 2008 

Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. AchuthanandanThe authority and prestige of the Chief Minister’s office in Kerala suffered another blow when the Chief Minister could not comprehensively reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor for his address in the Legislative Assembly on February 28.

More than half a dozen ministers rose to reply to the debate ahead of the Chief Minister, in an unprecedented display of lack of collective responsibility in the Ministry. In that process the Power Minister Mr.A. K. Balan and Chief Minister Mr. V. S. Achuthanandan even contradicted each other. (While Mr. Balan said that no land was available for acquisition by government for distribution to the tribals, Mr. Achuthanandan said that land taken back from encroachers would be given to tribals on a priority basis.)

The practice so far in the Assembly was for the Chief Minister, who heads the government, to comprehensively reply to the debate while a few Ministers may specifically answer any allegations raised against them during the debate. As his Minister’s had taken over the stage, the Chief Minister confined his remarks to few words.

Mr. Achuthanandan was tongue tied when the Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy asked about the stand of the Government on the HMT land deal. While the Advocate General has filed an affidavit before the Court saying that there were no irregularities in the sale of land by the public sector company (Hindusthan Machine Tools), the Chief Minister did not appear to share the same view. But all he said was that the Court verdict would serve interests of the State. He avoided an answer whether the affidavit filed by the AG was in the interests of the State.

Ministry abandons collective responsibility Monday, Feb 4 2008 

Kerala SecretariatThe LDF ministry in Kerala has thrown collective responsibility, which is the essence of the Constitutional Government, to winds. The Chief Minister and the Ministers do not trust each other. Consequently, the Chief Minister fails to provide leadership to the ministry. (It is not without reason that the democracies allow the Premiers to chose his Ministers. However, the coalition set up, divisions is the constituent parties and the practice of the communist parties in driving the Government from the back seat have made that an impossible ideal in Kerala.)

Opposing camps within the ruling Front leak out information to expose the Ministers and Chief Minister. Governance is practically at a standstill as the Cabinet is not functional in the real sense.

CPI (M) ministers are alleged to have taken CPI ministers for ride in regard to both the Merchiston estate and Cyber City deals. Several measures useful to the people are being stalled by Ministers with vested interest. A look at proposals rejected by the Cabinet would reveal that.

It is high time that the Chief Minister Achuthanandan put his foot down (to bring about order to his Cabinet and Government) or resigned from the post (if he cannot govern).