New Left government in Kerala: CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan to be sworn in as CM today!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPM won a decisive mandate in the 16 May assembly elections with 91 out of the 140 seats. Thus the people of Kerala have removed the Congress party led UDF government that faced anti-incumbency for its corrupt governance and replaced it with the Left parties led by CPM through a direct election for the state assembly.
CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan is the new CM of Kerala. A new government will assume office in Kerala on May 25 under Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPM, leader Pinarayi Vijayan, 72. The new Kerala government led by Pinarayi Vijayan would have 19 members (including the chief minister) and its swearing-in will be held at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram at 4 pm on Wednesday, said Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan. Swearing in ceremony is open to public
In the 140-member assembly, LDF won 91 seats, UDF 47, BJP and Independents, one each. The incumbent Congress led UDF has been decimated in Kerala. Muslim League a constituent of UDF has managed a good show in its Muslim strongholds with 18 MLAs getting elected to the assembly, though two less than what it had (20) in the outgoing assembly.
Kerala’s electorate has always had a tradition of alternating between the LDF and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). Even so, this time around, the corrupt image of the UDF was a crucial factor in its defeat. Eight out of every 10 in Kerala thought the UDF government was corrupt and more than one-third thought it was “very corrupt,” according to a post-poll survey published in Indian Express. About 14% who were otherwise satisfied with the UDF government’s performance saw it as being “very corrupt”, and among them 60% voted for the LDF, said the survey.
Most of Muslim League MLAs are billionaires with huge wealth made in politics and with help from low level party member mafias who had free access to the Kerala state secretariat in the capital. Generally, the League uses the presence of BJP and RSS to consolidate Muslim votes in the state as the MIM does it in Hyderabad.
Though it was almost a foregone conclusion within the CPI (M) that Pinarayi would become Chief Minister if the LDF was voted to power, the party had anticipated a strong pitch for the post from the nonagenarian former CM, Achuthanandan and was well prepared for it. The latter did stake his claim for Chief Minister, but realising that the odds were heavily stacked against him, he did not push hard.
Party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and his predecessor Prakash Karat, in coordination with the pro-Pinarayi State leadership, smoothly managed the affair within 24 hours of the declaration of election results. With Achuthanandan out of the way, there were no hurdles for the party to decide on Cabinet composition other important posts.
As per the provisions of Article 164 (1) of the Constitution, the governor appointed Vijayan as the Chief Minister and sought from him the list of persons to be appointed as ministerial colleagues, a Raj Bhavan press release said. In the 140-member Kerala Assembly, LDF has 91 legislators, including CPI (M)’s 58 and CPI’s 19.Kerala Governor Justice P Sathasivam invited Pinarayi Vijayan, who was elected leader of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) legislature party, to form the new government in Kerala. Earlier, Vijayan was unanimously elected Leader of the LDF legislature party.
Laddoos were distributed before the beginning of Vijayan’s press conference, which he explained — to reporters’ surprise — was on account of his birthday. Vijayan said records show March 21 to be his official date of birth, but it was on May 24 that he was born.
Vijayan’s name was suggested by party secretary Kodieyri Balakrishnan as per the decision of the state committee and it was approved by all the legislators. After the meeting, Balakrishnan met the governor and staked the claim of LDF to form the next government and handed over letters intimating election of Vijayan as the leader of the LDF Parliamentary party and expression of support from legislature parties leaders of other constituents of the LDF.
A 19-member Cabinet will be sworn in at a simple ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram. The CPI (M), the leader of the LDF, will have 12 ministers, including the Chief Minister. The second-largest party in the coalition, the CPI, will have four ministers. The NCP, the Congress (S) and Janata Dal (Secular) will get one berth each in the Cabinet. The posts of Government Chief Whip and Assembly Speaker will also go to the CPI (M).
It was decided that the size of the Cabinet would be restricted to 19 and the CPI (M) apportioned 12 berths. Since the CPI and the other minor coalition partners were not in a position to bargain for more, they accepted their shares without grudging. Only those parties which were members of the LDF were given ministerial berths; hence groups such as the Kerala Congress (B) had to stay out. The Chief Minister will keep with him the politically important portfolios of Home and Vigilance. TM Thomas Isaac will take charge of the crucial Finance portfolio. Isaac, an economist, was Finance Minister in the VS Achuthanandan ministry of 2006-11 too.
Since the CPI (M) does not tolerate maneuvering for ministerial berths by its MLAs, there were no hiccups over this. However, in the CPI, NCP and JD(U) ministerial aspirants created tensions within their own parties, though the issue was resolved.
The Pinarayi government faces huge challenges ahead — the State’s coffers are empty and debt burden staring at the government. For welfare measures and to pay salaries and pensions, the government will have to raise huge sums. Isaac has already said that he would not impose new taxes.
Politically, it is possible that the government’s relations with the BJP-ruled Centre will be stormy. The Sangh Parivar sees the CPI (M) as its main rival in Kerala. Attacks and counter-attacks over the past several decades have claimed hundreds of lives. Already, Central leaders of the BJP-RSS have indicated an aggressive approach to the CPI(M): the BJP opening its account with the win in Nemom has only bolstered the party.
Addressing reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday evening after a party meet, he said it has been decided to limit the cabinet to 19. “The outgoing Oommen Chandy government had 21 (the maximum allowed) but we decided to keep it to 19,” said Viswan, adding that the Communist Party of India-Marxist will have 12 berths, the Communist Party of India 4 and three other LDF constituents – the Janata Dal-S, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress-S – would get one each. Three other parties – thee RSP-L, Kerala Congress-Pillai, and the CMP – who contested alongside the LDF and have a legislator each were not considered for ministerial berths as they were not regular member of the LDF. The CPI-M will announce their team and the speaker of the house today while the portfolios will be announced later, said Viswan.
CPI-M leader and Kerala chief minister-designate Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday that his government will have no place for influence peddling and graft. Even before assuming office, “some people have started to move around using my name,” Vijayan said at a press conference. “The people of Kerala should be careful of such people and corruption will not be tolerated at any level,” said Vijayan who is set to be sworn in on Wednesday along with 18 other ministers. He said all necessary scrutiny would be carried out before appointing the staff members of the ministers to make sure only clean people get placed. He said a new chapter would begin in the history of Kerala on Wednesday when another new Left government would assume office. “We will ensure that we will be a government that will work for the betterment of the people and it would have to be devoid of any preference given for caste, creed or communities; instead it will be one for all the people,” said Vijayan.
The swearing-in-ceremony of the proposed Cabinet will be at 4 pm on May 25 at the Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram.
New Left government in Kerala has its task cut out. Kochi, May 24: Here are the five biggest tasks that confront the new government:
Of course corruption is a national problem, affecting the life of common people while the rich and corporate lords enjoy life at the cost of the rest. Whether or not the Communist government would put an end to corruption remains ot be seen.
There is not state in India which is not corrupt where Congress party ruled or rules and in fact India is a leading corrupt nation across the world and governments have successfully hidden the corruption issue by raking up unnecessary issues, like Pakistan.
The Oommen Chandy government did not care if every minister was corrupt or made wealth illegally. He thought people don’t bother about corruption as they are used to offer bribes to get things done.
The big challenge for Vijayan will be to undo the damage done by the previous government. While the public would certainly want the new government to be corruption-free, they would not want to see it as a witch-hunt government, because the Indian voter wants to move forward.
Corruption and wasteful expenditures by the previous Congress government has led the state into bankruptcy.
The public debt of Kerala stands at Rs.1.3 trillion, according a report last year by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The new government has indicated that it would raise tax rates, and improve their tax collections. At the centre of this crisis will be the socialist form of governance that Kerala has so far followed, something the CPM is so fond of. Circumstances are such that this form of governance will be intensely debated in the coming days.
People expect the efficiency of public sector units, one of the reasons of the debt, to be highly debated in the next few months. The government may not be able to contain the debt crisis if it does not look at the pricing of electricity and water. If it plans to open up education and health sector, that will also trigger debates.
The LDF manifesto said the front will encourage giving up liquor through awareness campaigns, which does not necessarily mean prohibition, and will raise the legal drinking age to 23 years. But it remains silent on whether it will allow reopening of the bars closed during the term of the previous government as part of its policy of gradual prohibition.
It is still not clear just where the incoming government stands on banning alcohol, which is a touchy subject in Kerala. The UDF, which came to power in the state with a wafer-thin majority of two seats in 2011, imposed gradual prohibition from 1 April 2014, at an estimated loss of Rs.1,800 crore to the exchequer, citing the risk to public health from alcohol. All bars in the state except the ones in five-star hotels are banned from selling liquor.
At least in the next budget, the new government will have to spell out in clear terms whether it will reverse the previous government’s prohibition policy and allow new liquor licences in the state, a decision that will have crucial implications on the state’s tourism sector, which makes up one-tenth of the state GDP and has taken a hit from prohibition.
All developmental projects in Kerala are possible because of regular remittances from Arab world where most of Kerala people are gainfully employed. Both Congress and Communist governments promoted employment of Kerala people abroad as there are no jobs in the state or India and huge bribes they have to pay to find even a small job. The oil price crash has dealt a severe blow to legions of Malayalees who work in oil-rich Gulf nations and some of them back in Kerala who wait eagerly for money transfers. Many Keralites are returning from the Gulf as a result of the oil price crash.
Cash flow form Mideast increased the prices of essential commodities in the state which does not produce anything and imports most of commodities from Tamil Nadu. Kerala government does not want Malayalees to return from Arab world. “This is a new reality, the return of Gulf migrants. Several parts of Kerala are facing side-effects of this. If it becomes an exodus, the new government will have a tough time making up for the dip in remittance deposits and in re-employing the returnees.
Development and social security
Religious tension is emerging in parts of the state. The rise of Hindutva BJP in the state has harmed communal harmony. The government will be expected to provide an all-out effort to protect the secular fabric of Kerala society. The Left government is also taking office at a time when the its famed development model, which has not quite trickled down to its lower castes, women and children, is getting widely debated after the recent rape-murder of a Dalit law student.
Many of the problems Kerala is facing today are the insensitiveness and result of failures of successive governments and its development itself. There’s a lot of talk about large-scale urbanization in Kerala in the name of development, but nobody is talking of managing problems of growth.
The new government cannot afford to neglect that aspect.
The left government of Pinarayi Vijayan is expected to undo what the previous Congress government did against common people and also correct the silly or big mistakes of previous Communist governments against poor and underprivileged as well.