The CPM-led Left Front government in Kerala seems to be courting one controversy after another in quick succession, involving businessmen who have become dear to the party in recent years. Closely on the heels of the forced exit of NCP minister Thomas Chandy from the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet over allegations of land grab, come gross violations of rules by companies owned by P.V. Anwar, a CPM-backed MLA from Nilambur in north Kerala’s Malappuram district. Anwar, another industrialist almost in the mode of businessman Chandy, was given a ticket during the last Assembly elections, overruling objections from the local CPM leadership. The MLA now is accused of setting up a water-themed amusement park in an ecologically sensitive area flouting all norms. The park, constructed 2,000 feet above sea level, is situated in a major tourist spot. The place at Kakadampoyil in Kozhikode district is similar to the landscape of Gavi, a world famous eco-tourist spot in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. It is alleged that the park built by razing the hills surrounding the area functions with the help of the local gram panchayat controlled by CPM. Many of the facilities in the park have not got clearance from different departments. When the controversy erupted, the Chief Minister had stated that the park has got relevant sanctions from the government.
Though days after the statement, the environment board issued orders shutting down of the park, controversy regarding Anwar’s business empire and his patronage by the CPM put the party in yet another soup. Now the Central government has blacklisted three companies where the MLA is director. These are Green India Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, PV’s Realtors India Ltd and PVR Developers Pvt Ltd. He also faces criminal charges, since he has listed only one company in the asset list filed at the time of submitting nomination papers. Anwar’s association with the party also strengthens the growing public perception that CPM, while mouthing pro-poor slogans, is actually siding with the rich and powerful. The way the Left Front government tried to protect Thomas Chandy till the last moment was for everyone to see. Interestingly, most of the contentious issues regarding government decisions have to do with land. The irony is that it is the very same CPM, which takes credit for the land reforms in Kerala, is now blatantly rising in defence of the land mafia in the state, much to the disbelief of many leading environment activists who had supported the LDF in the last elections. One such is lawyer activist Harish Vasudevan, who has gone or record that this government’s track record in land deals so far is worse than that of the previous Oommen Chandy government. As vernacular daily Janmabhumi points out, this government is practising “Five Star Marxism”.
At the height of Chandy’s levelling of the backwaters, the Chief Minister had termed that as “politically motivated” and till now has not conceded that his business has illegally encroached on government land.
It has become a norm that when it comes to legislations on land, it is one yardstick for those from the party and its allies and another for the common man. At the height of Chandy’s levelling of the backwaters, the Chief Minister had termed that as “politically motivated” and till now has not conceded that his business has illegally encroached on government land. More recently, the revenue department under CPI has decided to cancel ownership rights of 20 acres of land allegedly encroached upon by Joice George, MP, and his family at Kottakambur village in Idukki’s Devikulam taluk. It was seen as yet another indictment of the government on the heels of the Chandy episode. As was the case with Chandy, the Chief Minister had defended the Left-supported MP from Idukki in the state Assembly, saying Joice George had “inherited the property from his father”.
This too was seen as an attempt by the Chief Minister and his party to shield land sharks in the hill resort. Last week, Pinarayi Vijayan had convened a special meeting in which it was decided to keep on hold the revenue department’s decision and instead constitute a committee to look into MP’s land dispute. Everyone knows that one of the ministers, CPM’s M.M Mani, has a vested interest in all known land encroachments in Idukki district, from where he hails. Mani in the past had threatened to chop off the legs of those who dared to evict illegal encroachers in the area. Even then he is being hailed as one of the saviours of the landless. Purushan Kadalundi, a leading figure of CPM’s literary body, Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham, and now a party MLA, has equated Mani with Lord Sri Krishna. Mani’s inclusion in the committee is seen as an attempt to block any move from the CPI minister to go ahead with evictions in the region. For all practical purposes, the issue will be given a decent burial. A few months ago, the government had shunted out an honest IAS officer, who dared to take on the land sharks, calling a full stop to all actions against the land mafia in the area.