Weakening of Mr. Achuthanandan Sunday, Jul 12 2009 

Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

The CPI (M) Central Committee has decided to weaken Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan and not to throw him out from the party for the time being. This is in strategic deference to minority opinion opposed to action against Mr. Achuthanandan alone for indiscipline, sparing party State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan (Pinarayi was being spared despite his role in factionalism in the party).

However, the State leaders had for long adopted the strategy to weaken him gradually and eventually throw him out from the Chief Ministership. CPI (M) Ministers have already expressed their lack of  confidence in him besides the State unit.

So, democratically and politically, Mr. Achuthanandan’s continuance as the Chief Minister of the State is untenable, but for the people’s support he is enjoying. However, there is no device to measure his current popularity. (Some opinion polls during the Lok Sabha elections had shown that the Chief Minister is still popular with the masses.)

Three years of Achuthanandan’s rule has been a disaster. He has not been showing any initiatives for months now, after those on the Smart City project and the eviction of encroachers at the beginning of this term which did not bear fruit. So, the administration is as good as paralysed on several fronts. The only notable exception is welfare of farmers, fishermen and other weaker sections. Mr. Achuthanandan could be saying that this was because his party virtually did not allow him to function. But that does not materially alter the fact that the State is missing good governance.

Of course, Mr. Achuthanandan moral stands and fight against corruption has value. But tangible results are yet to be seen. Even in the case of Lavalin case, successful prosecution is unlikely.

So, the fundamental question is whether continuance of Mr. Achuthanandan would benefit the State. Under the present circumstances, the damage outweigh the benefits. So, Mr. Achuthanandan should be submitting the resignation of his ministry.

If he has popularity independent of the party, theoretically he should be able to come back to power.  Practically, however, he would need a strong party and its machinery which is not easy to build even with earlier oustees from the party. Besides, he cannot recommend the dissolution of the Assembly without a Cabinet decision.

V. S. is a fighter who does not forget his ire. He knows that he can inflict more damage on his opponents by being in the party than outside. The game will continue with each side trying to weaken the other side, at the cost of the public.

LDF seeing reason Monday, Jun 15 2009 

The LDF is seeing reason. However, it is still far from convinced that the Governor R. S. Gavai did his constitutional duty.

Egged by parties such as the CPI and RSP, the CPI (M) has resolved itself to take the legal course in the SNC Lavalin case win which party State secretary Pinarai Vijayan is the seventh accused. They still say that the Governor acted without authority. According to the CPI (M), the Governor is an official of the Central Government. If it cared to look at the Constitution, it can be seen that the Governor is not an official but a Constitutional authority and Supreme Court verdicts show that he had discretionary powers to allow the prosecution of Mr. Vijayan disregarding the opinion of the Cabinet.

All this shows that the LDF is far from redeeming itself after the crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. Though they acknowledge that the SNC Lavalin case played a role in their losing public support, they are unwilling to change their policies. Instead, they are trying to hoodwink the public by raising technicalities of the Governor’s decision.

It is also notable that a section of the leaders in both the CPI and the RSP is in favour of the line of official faction of the CPI (M). This is suppressing a rebellion by the others.

CPI-M again challenging rule of law Sunday, Jun 7 2009 

Kerala Governor R. S. Gavai

Kerala Governor R. S. Gavai

The CPI (M) is challenging the rule of law by observing a black day against decision of the Governor R. S. Gavai sanctioning prosecution of CPI (M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The issue here is not Mr. Vijayan’s innocence or guilt, but the requirement that he should stand trial like any citizen of this country. Even bias in the investigation is not a valid justification for trying to undermine the due process of law. Everyone is equal before law. In the case of Mr. Vijayan, the CBI investigation was directly supervised by a court of law and prima facie a case has been established.

The Constitutional provision requiring prior permission of the Governor for prosecution of people for anything done in their capacity as Ministers is merely intended to ensure that those who held such positions are not unnecessarily harassed for bona fide action taken in the discharge of their duties. It is not an instrument to protect people from the consequences of wrong doing.

What the CPI (M) is doing now is reminiscent of what Indira Gandhi did after she was unseated by the Allahabad High Court for electoral malpractices. She changed the law to save herself and declared emergency to stay in power. Mr. Vijayan is using Government machinery and the party machinery to save himself from the due process of law. The party is directly challenging a Constitutional authority. The organisational power of a political party is not to be misused to save an individual.

If the illiterate people of India could deliver a crushing defeat to Indira Gandhi, the fate awaiting the CPI (M) is clear. In fact, the people has already spoken through the Lok Sabha elections.

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.