‘Vaccination centres in the state are in disarray due to the severe shortage of vaccines’.


New Delhi: It is bad times for the Left Front government in Kerala which is confident of getting another term in office results of which will be out on 2 May. Kerala which had successfully tackled the corona outbreak last year today is reeling under the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic which has swept the country. The recently held Assembly elections are said to be the main cause for the surge in the state. An administration which won accolades word-wide in its fight against the deadly virus is today fighting with its back to the wall. Vaccination centres in the state are in disarray due to the severe shortage of vaccines.

State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja told reporters on Thursday that there was a worrying situation in the state due to the shortage of vaccines. The state has requested the Centre to rush more vaccines. If the situation continues like this, the state may have to go in for selective localised lockdown in areas where the disease was severe, Shailaja, hailed as Covid’s Rock Star by the western media, said. More than anybody else she should know.

The state has sought 25 lakh more doses each of Covishield and Covaxin. According to health officials, the situation would improve slightly with the arrival of fresh stock expected on Saturday. “We will be getting two lakh does on Saturday. However it will not be sufficient to restart mass vaccination camps which are now temporarily shut down,” news agencies quoting health officials reported.With the opening of mega camps, daily vaccination requirements had touched the 3lakh mark. The health department, however, expects the recent surge to subside in two weeks time. For the time being, vaccine shortage has hampered the state government’s “Crush the Curve” campaign.

Despite elections to the Assembly are over and done with, political temperature seems to be on the rise in the state, almost matching the virus’ spread. Last week, K.T. Jaleel, Higher Education and Minority Welfare Minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan government had to resign, four days after the state Lokayukta found him guilty of “favouritism and nepotism”. Announcing his decision, Jaleel, said to be a pet of Chief Minister Vijayan, wrote on Facebook that he had been a “victim of unjustified media with-hunt for the last two years”. Jaleel’s post in Malayalam said, “Those who were braying for my blood can relax for a while. This is to inform you that I have handed over my resignation letter to the Chief Minister.” The Lokayukta verdict came in the wake of a complaint that Jaleel had “illegally appointed” his second cousin as the General Manager of the Kerala State Minorities Finance Development Corporation. Nepotism is not the only case against the Minister, one time star of the Indian Union Muslim League and now the toast of CPM, though Jaleel has not taken a membership in the party of the “working class”.

In the past few months, the Enforcement Directorate, Customs Department and the National Investigation Agency had probed various allegations against Jaleel in connection with the gold smuggling case. Moreover he was involved in contentious import and distribution of Quran, which the investigation agencies suspect and the Opposition allege, was a cover for smuggling of the yellow metal. The irony is that while this MLA from Thavanur in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district in north Kerala claimed that his decision to resign was to uphold “political integrity”, the Lokayukta had pronounced that “this man (Jaleel) has no integrity at all.” Though a lame duck government, Jaleel’s resignation has enlivened the Opposition which had been demanding his resignation for the past several months. Leader of the Opposition Congressman Ramesh Chennithala said, “Pinarayi is a partner in crime, needs to quit.” How Pinarayi Vijayan will accommodate his “favourite minister” in the event of his return to power is to be seen.

The biggest setback to the Left Front government this week came in the form of a court ruling. On Friday, the High Court quashed two First Information Reports (FIRs) filed by the state police against some “unnamed officials” of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Kochi for allegedly forcing Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair, both prime accused in the sensational UAE-linked gold smuggling and money laundering cases , to give false statements against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other top government officials. Justice V.G.Arun held that the police could not have registered the FIRs for the offence under section 193 of the Indian Penal Code. In this context, the court observed that the proper remedy for the crime branch would have been to approach the Special Court under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Court with the complaint against the ED officials. Days before the elections, the Left Front had flaunted the FIRs as its mascot in its fight against central investigation agencies working at the behest of their “political masters” (read BJP) in Delhi.

The CPM had even compared the move to its resistance against CAA and tried to make maximum political mileage out of it. Whether they have succeeded in this can be known only after the results. The Opposition Congress has hailed the verdict as a slap in the face of Pinarayi Vijayan. Interestingly, all the central agencies had come to Kerala at the very invitation of Pinarayi Vijayan himself. Vijayan in his much-viewed televised evening press briefings used to claim that the investigation agencies were on the “right track” each time questions were raised about the probe. However the moment investigation agencies zeroed in on his political confidants, Vijayan changed his tune and started accusing the agencies with “political vendetta”. In the process, the agencies slowed down their pace in such a way that it gave the impression that both the CPM and BJP were trying to create a smokescreen of animosity between them. Simultaneously, the CBI went on dragging its feet in the SNC-Lavalin case involving Pinarayi Vijayan which forced the Supreme court to adjourn the case for a record 28th time on 6 April the day of the voting in Kerala.

All this gave ammunition to Congress which had been accusing the CPM of having a clandestine understanding with the BJP to make Kerala, a la Amit Shah “Congress mukt”. There is a strong rumour, some say instigated by ‘vested interests’ running across the state that as per the “pact” with Narendra Modi, Vijayan would ensure a minimum of six, if not more, seats for the BJP.

This has its resonance in Ramesh Chennithala’s words post court ruling on Friday. Chennithala said: “CPM and BJP both do not want a serious probe into these cases…The state government knew that the case against Central agencies won’t stand legal scrutiny. “Whether it is a political game plan or not, Kerala will know on 2 May when the results will be out. But take it for granted. Any gain for BJP will definitely be construed as a masterstroke by the CPM to liquidate Congress in the state.