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.

No rice for Onam festival Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

FCI godown in Kerala

FCI godown in Kerala

It is going to be a political fight between Kerala and the Centre (Central government) for rice. The Centre has drastically cut rice quotas to the State for public distribution. It soon turned into a political fight with the Union Minister for Agriculture and Civil Supplies Sharad Pawar taking umbrage for the absence of representatives of his party in the all-party delegation from Kerala that approached him for more rice. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was initially sympathetic, the equations have now changed with the Left parties withdrawing support to his government.

Politics apart, let us examine the pros and cons of the decision of the Centre to cut quotas. Kerala has not been drawing the allocated quotas for the above poverty line cardholders for years as the APL cardholders had mostly stopped getting their supplies from the public distribution system (ration shops). With increase in price of rice, some have returned to the ration shops. However, current demand is not entirely based on demand from the cardholders. Many ration dealers sell rice in the black market where it fetches higher prices.  With increase in price of rice, black market deals have become more lucrative. By demanding large allocations, Kerala government is actually catering to those who divert ration articles. However, it is to be accepted that higher availability of rice whether in the PDS, open market or black market would have the effect of holding the price line.

The Centre had a good reason in limiting allotments when the buffer stocks were running thin. However, the situation has now changed with better procurement this year. The FCI godowns are now flush with grains. The Central government is even planning to auction off rice. So, there is little justification for denying reasonable quotas to the State. After all, statutory procurement of grains from the producers is noted intended for making profits. It should be distributed through the public distribution system itself. As Kerala is a food deficit State, it request for more rice merits consideration, if adequate steps have been taken to prevent its diversion. The special allocation given to the State (10000 tonnes of rice) is inadequate considering the cuts in regular quotas.

The Left will not dump the Government Friday, Jul 4 2008 

Capital city

Central Secretariat

The Left will not dump the Government (KeralaViews said earlier that it might dump the Congress.) It will wait for the Congress to strike a deal with the Samajvadi party before it withdraws support to the UPA, thus paving way for the nuclear deal with the United States. If it had withdrawn support earlier, the Government may have fallen. If the left parties really wanted to prevent the nuclear deal, it would have withdrawn support without notice so that the Congress would have little time to come to understandings with other parties.

Most parties do not want an election now. Congress and the Left is parting ways because of electoral exigencies. They need a lead-time before they face the electorate with opposing arguments. The so-called crisis over nuclear deal also helps both the Congress-led and CPI-M led governments to divert attention from price rise, inflation and other issues.

Otherwise, one should be wondering why the Congress was risking its government for a deal with the United States that is no way crucial for the country. Nothing particular is going to happen if India did not sign the deal. India had developed its nuclear assets on its own. In fact, the performance of the Atomic Energy Department was better that the Indian Space Research Organisation. While the latter brought, adapted or copied rocket technology from other countries, the former developed the nuclear technology on its own. If at all India wants more nuclear power plants, it has the technical capability to do so. It also has the raw materials. Only, the capital needs to be found.

Even if the deal would help the energy sector more than indigenous efforts, nuclear plants could become a liability on account of the decommissioning costs and problems in disposal of wastes. Being a vast country, India has several alternative sources of energy waiting to be tapped.