NEW DELHI: Even as the controversy over the decision of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to dispatch his chief secretary to Gujarat to study its chief minister’s Dashboard system refuses to die down, it seems there is more to it than meets the eye. It is said the dashboard system allows the CM’s office to access data from all e-governance applications in the state and monitor the same against defined key performance indicators. The Kerala delegation led by chief secretary V.P. Joy was in Ahmedabad last Thursday to see for itself the functioning of the system.
To begin with, the system developed by the National Informatics Centre is in use in many other states including those ruled by the opposition. Moreover, sometime back the transport department in Kerala had developed a similar system to track availability of spare parts for the state-run KSRTC. Then why Gujarat, is the question being asked both by the layman and party members in the state.
CPM in Kerala has always tended to look askance on Gujarat simply because the state is inextricably identified with the persona of Narendra Modi who is anathema to both the Congress and the CPM in Kerala. Hence the chief secretary’s own admission that the chief minister had asked him to undertake ‘Mission Ahmedabad’ after Vijayan’s one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Modi earlier this month has stumped many in the CPM, not to speak of the opposition Congress. The immediate speculation over such a move revolves around the contentious semi-high speed SilverLine rail project linking one end of the state to the other for which the central government is yet to give its final nod.
Vijayan’s meeting with Modi was to get the prime minister’s “in principle” approval to the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the SilverLine which is awaiting clearance from the Railway Board. The chief minister after the meeting had hinted at the Prime Minister’s assurance to look into the project “sympathetically”. The Kerala Rail Corporation, K-Rail in short, has fashioned SilverLine in line with the Mumbai –Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (MAHCR), said to be the pet project of Narendra Modi.
As was earlier the case with Modi’s Bullet Train, there is massive popular resistance to Kerala’s SilverLine, termed as Pinarayi Vijayan’s dream project. The issue of SilverLine has become a prestige issue for the chief minister since time and again Vijayan has been threatening to implement the project come what may. Since what Narendra Modi is to BJP/Sangh Parivar, Pinarayi Vijayan is to CPM in Kerala, the chief minister’s word has been final in government and the party in Kerala. And with Vijayan being equated with development, the CPM has been branding those against the project as anti-development, anti-Kerala and anti-Vijayan, almost similar to the general BJP refrain against those opposed to Modi nationally.
In such a situation it is quite natural for the chief minister to send a team to study the database set-up in Gujarat, hoping that Modi would reciprocate by giving go ahead to the SilverLine project. Even with central sanction it is to be seen whether Pinarayi Vijayan’s government will be able to implement the project, resistance to which is increasing by the day which, many fear, may end in a bloodbath. Not a pleasant outlook for a project projected as the future of Kerala. Significantly, it was during Vijayan’s tenure as state secretary of CPM that Kerala witnessed a Minister in the 2011-16 Oommen Chandy-led Congress government apologising for calling on Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, and gifting him the world-famous Aranmula Kannadi (mirror).
As a political storm gathered over his meeting with Modi in 2013, the then Labour minister Shibu Baby John of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, in a bid to wriggle out of the situation, had stated that he “had only discussed certain issues relating to development of labour with Narendra Modi, but it is felt now that the meeting with Modi was wrong”. The meeting took place just months before Modi publicly announced his decision to run for the prime minister’s post. The Congress on its part saved its skin by contending that Shibu had met Modi without the consent of chief minister Ommen Chandy.
Before that, in 2009, CPM had expelled its one-time poster boy, A P Abdullakutty for saying “the efforts of Modi to bring development to his state was worthy of emulation.” This was despite the fact that the two-time MP from Kannur, once endearingly nicknamed by the party as Alphuthakutty (Wonder Boy) had made it clear that he did not agree with Modi’s “anti-minority” approach.
Abdullakutty was expelled from CPM on grounds of breach of discipline by “joining class enemies”. Ironically, Abdullakutty who was then inducted to the Congress with much fanfare was expelled from there too for advocating a pro-Modi line. He is now one of the national vice-presidents of the BJP and the most prominent Muslim face of the party from Kerala. But many foresee political fallout from Vijayan’s move. For quite some time he has been charting his own course of communism, many a time going against the avowed policies of the CPM. The CPM central leadership so far has been lenient towards Vijayan since Kerala remains the only Red corner in the country.
Moreover, Vijayan is the only opposition CM to avoid any reference to Modi or the BJP while criticising the “right-wing” policies of the central government. Even at the recently concluded CPM party congress in Kannur, Pinarayi Vijayan was the only leader who did not name Narendra Modi or the BJP while condemning the “growth of fascism” in the country. Gujarat will go to polls at the end of the year. What will be CPM’s stand on Gujarat Model this time?