Top leaders caught for electoral offences Wednesday, Apr 6 2011 

Election poster

Election poster of Minister Surendran Pillai issued by 'West Constituency Development Committee'

Kerala is now witnessing a disturbing trend of top leaders in committing electoral offences. The Election Commission on Wednesday censured CPI (M) MLA and former Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram V. Sivankutty for abusing and threatening a woman executive magistrate overseeing election expenditure in Nemon constituency. The officer was also prevented from discharge of her duty. (Some newspapers suppressed this incident.)

The Commission is examining the complaint that Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan had vilified his opponent Lathika Subhash in Malampuzha constituency. If the charge is upheld, it is a corrupt practice under the Section 123(4) of the Representation of People Act.

Earlier, the Election authorities had seized posters printed in violation of the election rules and sealed a printing press in Trivandrum. Those involved in the electoral offences included candidates from the UDF, LDF as well as the BJP. The prominent among them were Minister for Food and Civil Supplies C. Divakaran (CPI) and former Union Minister of State O. Rajagopal (BJP).   Elections rules require the name of the press and exact copies printed to be stated on the poster.

Even before the election notification came, the BJP candidate in Palakkad Udaya Baskhar had come under criticism for his presence at function organised for distribution of sarees to the poor.

Measures taken by the Election Commission is having some salutary effect in checking expenditure. However, stronger action is called for to check various electoral offences. Candidates are encouraged to break the law, because there is little follow up action once the elections are over.

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Rank opportunism Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

Alphons Kannamthanam and Nitin Gadkari

Alphons Kannamthanam being welcomed into BJP by party president Nitin Gadkari.

Opportunism has found new heights among politicians in Kerala with several of them changing colours like chameleon.

The field has become such that it looks like corporates hunting for talents in a job market with scarcity of talents. However, what the political parties are getting are people with no ideology other than what suits them at the moment.

So, some comparisons with the past are apt. When people like Peter (Punnapra Vayalar uprising) and P. V. Kunhikannan (LDF convenor) were expelled from CPI (M), they ended up in penury unable to lead any other party or movement for ideological or practical reasons. Leaders like P. T. Chacko were unwilling to quit Congress but his followers formed the Kerala Congress. Many of those who split parties at those times were unwilling for major shifts in their stands or professed ideology.

The historical split of Communist party of India only yielded the Communist Party of India (Marxist). When the party of Sreekantan Nair and Baby John, styling itself as Revolutionary Socialist Party, split again and again; that only gave way to comical variants of the RSP. Though Kerala Congresses divided themselves like amoeba, they kept their generic names.  Even M. V. Raghavan and K. R. Gouriamma formed their own parties, even when going for a major shift from their leftist positions.

Individual defections like that of Lonappan Nambadan, T. K. Hamza and Cheriyan Philip were stable and made some sense. However, when it came to the likes of A. P. Abdullakutty, it started look more opportunistic. Still Abdullakutty, or for that matter Manjalamkuzhi Ali, could raise some valid issues. However, when it comes to Alphons Kannamthanam, Jaya Dally and Sindhu Joy, careerist preferences seems to be only major concern. People would have even taken aback by the suddenness with which they have switched loyalties to extreme levels. The question now is how the people could trust these politicians?

People’s verdict may not shake the CPI (M) Wednesday, Oct 27 2010 

CPI(M) march

Times have changed, vehicle jathas replace marches.

The CPI (M) and its allies chose wealth over virtue; and the results have come. The party lost its dominance at the local level of panchayats and municipalities after two decades. The results of the elections to about 1200 local self government institutions in Kerala should come as a blow to the CPI (M). However, there may not be much remorse or regret in the CPI (M) camp. At least some of its leaders had the capacity to predict what was to come and identify the causes. But most of them chose trend the path of mammon.

It notable that urban areas with not-so-committed people are fast abandoning the party. The wave has reached the villages and is brushing party-strongholds. Yet, it has not penetrated strong holds like Kannur and backward areas like Ksaragod where people who were loyal to the party remain loyal. However, it would be hard for the party to stem the trend now.

People have learned that the party has changed a lot from the times its leaders slept on wooden benches in the party office and survived on brunches of ‘parippuvada’ and black tea. They have now migrated to party-built flats and five star comforts. That might have been inevitable. But, simultaneously, they abandoned values and paid only lip service to the ideology that sustained the party.

It would be wrong to relate the defeat just to the recent controversies such as the lotteries issue. The State Cabinet has become an epitome of collective irresponsibility while the party leaders embraced mega projects. The government could not deliver on the developmental front and failed the weaker sections (Eg. Attappady tribals, endosulfan victims, Chengara agitators and many small fries who tasted the injustice from the administration). An increase in welfare pensions cannot do the trick anymore. Why should the people credit a government for dolling out what they have paid in taxes? Any fool could undertake such enterprises and pocket his commissions. You would not appoint him to govern you.

Tailpiece (added on 29th):

The BJP claims that it has improved its support. What it could do was to harness the support that was already there. It is not a political victory. Rather, what it gone in terms of votes is spill overs from the wave against LDF.

From debate to confession Monday, Oct 18 2010 

After having failed in the debate over lotteries and corruption, the government has turned apologetic. The Chief Minister, V. S. Achuthanandan, has just said mea culpa. That is the only option for salvation in the coming elections.

This is not to say that the Congress was not guilty. It acted with sophistication. First the government charged hundreds of cases against the sellers of lotteries. Then, it gave an undertaking in the Supreme Court that it would not harass the sellers anymore, effectively killing the cases charged and blocking future action. How much money would have changed hands for this volte-facie by the government is anybody’s guess.  But the government had an excuse which, prima facie, would look valid—there was the Damocles’ sword of contempt of court above the Chief Secretary.

In contrast, the methods of the CPI-M were rather crude. Take a big contribution for the party and allow the lottery operators a free for all. Defend with what the Centre is doing to aid the lottery distributors and what the previous government had done in the State.

The Finance Minister, Thomas Issac, engaged V. D. Satheesan of the Congress in debate hoping that the he could easily succeed with the old facts in his finger tips. But he forgot one things. He was not privy to all the underhand dealings. Besides, the charges against a ruling Government would look more serious that the omissions and commissions of the previous government which had been ousted by the people.

So, the only option before the Government is to confess as Clinton had done in Monica Lewinsky case. However, the least guilty is doing the confession. Will the people accept that?

Update:

It seems that the ‘strategy’ was just that of Ahuthanandan. The party does not like to apologise. So, VS, as usual, has been forced to retract from his stand.

LDF faces electoral defeat, admits Minister Balan Monday, Sep 13 2010 

Welcome to A. K. Balan

There are a few places like Chinnakkanal near Munnar where the newspapers did not have much reach. There the squatters on government land welcome Mr. Balan. (File Photo)

Kerala’s Electricity Minister A. K. Balan has finally admitted that: the LDF is not going to be returned to power in Kerala.

Well, he said it in a different way. The newspapers were unseen enemy of the people. If people continued to read newspapers, the LDF government would not be able to come back to power despite it carrying out programmes for the welfare of the people. (Mathrubhoomi, September 12, 2010).

He claimed that the Kerala government had surpassed even China in respect of developmental activities. But only if the people stopped reading newspapers could the government return to power.

Of course, Balan is not Thomas Jefferson to say: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter “(Thomas Jefferson, 1787).

Nor is he a democrat like Nehru who said: “I would rather have a completely free Press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated Press.” (Speech at the Newspaper Editor’s Conference. 3/12/1950).

He is a communist who had for long wished that the dictatorship of the proletariat, as practiced in China, could be established in India.  But India embraced democracy.  As a consequence, he could not wish away the Press or keep them under control as in China.

So, defeat of the LDF has become a certainty in Kerala with the newspapers flourishing and free to write anything about the contributions of the government to the masses. It has been encouraging lotteries and encroachment of land as a means to become rich quick and toddy shops and bars for a kick.  The newspapers portray them as the opium of the masses. The people do not see that their real enemies are the media and not liquor barons and lottery distributors. They had turned the people against the government at Kinalur, Attappady, Kannur, Kochi and several other places where the government had planned developmental projects.

Tailpiece
The media even fail to see the advances made by Kerala over China. While the Chinese could not take up construction of the Vizhinjam International Transshipment Terminal owing to conspiracy by the Central government, the State government itself has now decided  to take up the construction of the road to the proposed project site. The work has been inaugurated though it is yet to start. The Chinese could not even win the contract for building the terminal while the State government is now busy awarding the contracts for building the roads to the State’s own PWD contractors.

LDF’s new strategy Thursday, Jun 3 2010 

In an earlier posting, KeralaViews wrote about LDF getting jittery over its electoral prospects. That jittery phase is almost over and the LDF has started drawing up strategies carefully to regain its lost ground. It may be a bit surprising that the first indication of this had come from the Chief Minister V. S. Achuthandnan, despite his rout in the party.

He said that communalism is growing in the Christian and Muslim community. Neutral observers may regard it as a statement of fact. However, Achuthanandan has stated that now just to endear himself to the majority community.

The strategic shift to woo the majority community over earlier attempts to woo the Muslims by even giving in to fundamentalism, however, leaves the party with baggage from the past. The PDP has to be discarded. However, it is yet to be seen whether the party would abandon all those who had helped it in the past and probe all the fundamentalist activities that had taken place in Malappuram and other districts to the root. The Indian National League has already sensed the drift and decided to call it a day. It would be leaving the LDF after a 16-year old liaison.

The CPI (M)’s attempts to woo the Christian community were a stalled effort for long. The community had voted overwhelmingly against the LDF in the Lok Sabha elections. Now that the Kerala Congress has left the camp, the party has virtually severed links with the community. The Kerala Congress faction led by P. C. Thomas could only be a liability in carrying forward with its new strategy. Mr. Thomas was a person who had been debarred from contesting the elections for the next three years for openly using communal card in the election campaign. Hence, the reluctance to grant Ministerial berth to the party.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, many in the Ezhava community had voted against the LDF because of its links with the PDP and other factors. The LDF can now hope to regain some of these votes through the new strategy. (It has already lost minority votes and may lose some more. Yet a net gain could be expected.)

The strategy may also help the State. The political protection that extremists got in the past may dissipate. As the LDF distances itself from minority communalism, the UDF would not be compelled to cater to communalists and fundamentalists. This is already showing through its resistance to bargaining by Kerala Congress. The Muslim League had to abandon talks with the Jama-ate-Islami.

However, the new strategy may not yet save the LDF from impending defeat in the coming elections. Their failure to govern and the riches of the CPI(M) and the corruption that goes with it is indeed a heavy baggage.

Price rise during deflation Sunday, Jun 21 2009 

labhammarketWhile the nation is experiencing deflation, Kerala is witnessing all round increase in prices of essential commodities including vegetables.

It is difficult to explain this situation through normal means. However, it becomes easy to explain it if we postulate that it is masterminded, probably with the aid of politicians. We are told that the price of rice jumped by Rs. 3 to Rs. 5 a kg because of transportation problems. Enough wagons were not made available by the Railways even while the new Minister of State for Railways E. Ahmed was talking of ending the neglect of Kerala in railway development.

So, the theory is that this is the results of elections– traders trying to recover the contributions they were forced to make to the political parties for funding the campaigns by artificially jacking up prices with the aid of those in power. The Opposition is not making any hue and cry over the price rise. The Government’s response is a lot of sound and fury from the party of the Food and Civil Supplies Minister and a few special markets in the cities. It is suggested that these special markets in the cities would help the consumers when the real sufferers of price rise is the poor villagers.

Kerala has seen such price rises, strict enforcement of helmet rules and even loss of trees from the forests when the politicians need money. This has happened under the present government also.

Major upheaval in LDF likely Monday, Apr 27 2009 

AKG Centre, Trivandrum

AKG Centre, Trivandrum

A major upheaval is likely in the LDF if the Lok Sabha election results go heavily against the Front.

Depending on the gravity of voters’ verdict, it could even lead to disintegration of the Front. Half of the Janata Dal is already out of the Front. The contours of the split would be decided by the gravity of the verdict.

The CPI may find it untenable to continue in the Front if it loses all the four seats it contested. Some of the Cabinet Ministers are already in the winding up mode, foreseeing a Cabinet reshuffle.

The CPI (M) is going to see the bitterest of the wrangles. While one group would want Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan to quit, some others may want the party secretariat members to return to their organisational jobs and build the party for the next elections. State secretary Pinarai Vijayan is not easily going to give up control of the party  even in the face of a serious upset.

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