A government which came to power with the promise to set everything right has dropped all vigilance cases pertaining to corruption during the last regime.
Never before in Kerala politics has there been an Opposition in such disarray as is the case now. Here is a government which on completion of two years in power has seen the resignation of three ministers on charges of nepotism, sexual misconduct and sleaze, over a dozen political killings in Kannur district alone, over a score of deaths due to police atrocities, including one cold blooded murder of an innocent youth in police custody, apparently at the behest of the ruling party bigwigs of the area, and violent incidents of people’s protests across the state against forcible acquisition of their farmland. The state was witness to a couple of honour killings too, hitherto unheard of. Almost every day the media brings to light instances of police brutality against the common man, but the Chief Minister, who also handles the home portfolio, keeps on defending his force. Every time such an incident happens, the Chief Minister and party secretary comes out with a statement that it was “an isolated case” and “such things should not have happened”. This has become a routine affair that the media is forced to identify each with the tag of the month like “isolated case of May/June”, etc. A government which came to power with the promise to set everything right has dropped all vigilance cases pertaining to corruption during the last regime. Not a single politician or bureaucrat has been brought to book. Still there has not been any mass movement by the Opposition, Congress or the BJP, worth its name against this misrule of the Left Front government led by CPM strongman Pinarayi Vijayan.
Indecisive leadership and unending group fights have been the bane of both the parties. If the Congress is digging its own grave, the BJP is hobbling after much hype and promise. There has been a virtual revolt in the state Congress following its shameful defeat in the Chengannur Assembly byelection late last month. The setback in one of its traditional strongholds in central Kerala has triggered off a call for generational change in the party’s leadership. However, it was the party leadership’s decision to hand over the Rajya Sabha seat that fell vacant following the retirement of the Deputy Chairman of the Upper House, P.J. Kurien to Kerala Congress led by K.M. Mani that shocked the rank and file of the party. Apparently, the leadership, KPCC president M.M. Hassan, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, had taken such a decision without consulting other senior leaders. Moreover, Mani was not even part of the United Democratic Front led by the Congress. Mani had parted ways with the UDF after almost four decades following its ignominious defeat in the last Assembly elections in 2016. Since then Mani had made many futile attempts to tie up with the CPM-led LDF and the BJP-led NDA. But nothing materialised and Mani remained single till the Chengannur by-election, when the UDF approached him for support. Mani’s support did not help, but the Congress offer had come as a boon to Mani whose sole purpose of being in politics is the well-being of his own family. So he promptly fielded son Jose K. Mani, who is a sitting MP in the Lok Sabha from Kottayam for the RS seat. It was nothing but political skulduggery as a stunned Congress watched helplessly. The party is for the time being rudderless and in no condition to launch any political initiatives.
The BJP leadership too is in a limbo ever since the summary decision of the party high command to pack off state president Kummanom Rajsekharan to Mizoram. Generally when a president vacates, he or she hands over charge to the second in command. But so abrupt was the decision to remove Kummanom that he did not have the time to do so. In fact the party had brought in Rajasekharan from the RSS two years ago, hoping to end the factional feud within the state unit. But Kummanom, a soft spoken, genial person, could not give any strong leadership to the party. Mainly two factions, one led by former state president P.K. Krishnadas and the other by the recently elected Rajya Sabha member V. Muraleedharan, control the party. The main problem with the state BJP is that almost all the top leaders have been the president of the party at one time or the other. There are a few young contenders, but they lack leadership experience and are mainly controlled by the two group leaders. The central leadership’s dilemma is understandable since imposing someone from outside may not work, as was the case with Kummanom. Of the two names that are doing the rounds, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, who was party’s candidate in Chengannur, had been the state president earlier. The other is M. Radhakrishnan, RSS pranthkaryavahak, and managing director of party mouthpiece Janmabhumi. Both of them are not aligned with any of the groups. That itself may turn out to be a big drawback. Whoever takes charge, it will take some time for the party to recoup and till such time there is no question of the party taking up issues.
Meanwhile, the ruling Left Front seems to have a smooth ride. Its Chengannur victory is being portrayed as an affirmation of people’s support to the government. A myth is being created that with the victory all misdeeds of the past two years have been forgotten. Since there is no credible opposition to question such a claim, the Pinarayi government can live in its own cocoon.