It has not been smooth sailing for the Left as it completes a year in office in Kerala but Marxist leaders say it is too early to dub Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan a failure….writes Sanu George
The day Vijayan and his team were sworn in on May 25 last year, the general impression was that he and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) might end up being in power not for five years but for a decade.
One reason why expectations from Vijayan, 73, were high was his work as Electricity Minister in the E.K. Nayanar cabinet in 1996 and after he quit as minister to be the CPI-M State Secretary, a post he held till 2015.
But a year later, even fans of Vijayan seem to be crestfallen.
The most popular slogan during the assembly poll campaign was “LDF varum, elam sheri akum” (LDF will come, all will be set right).
A year later, the slogan now widely heard is: “LDF poyal elam sheri akum” (Everything will be all right if LDF goes).
Unlike his predecessors from the CPI-M who became Chief Ministers, Vijayan had the advantage of having the entire party under his control and hence could pick his close aides as cabinet ministers.
He named just three ministers who had previous experience and brought in eight who had none at all, leaving out seasoned party colleagues with huge executive and legislative experience.
Vijayan’s apathy towards the media was well known. He became the first Chief Minister to do away with holding a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.
He decided he will speak to the media when he desires.
The first embarrassment for Vijayan, and perhaps for Kerala, came when the Industries and Sports Minister E.P. Jayarajan condoled the death of legendary boxer Mohammed Ali by calling him a Keralite.
Jayarajan soon had to resign on charges of nepotism after it emerged that he appointed two relatives to top posts in state public sector firms. From then on, Vijayan’s stock has taken blows.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the LDF, also came under attack from the Communist Party of India (CPI), its ally, on a host of issues including attacks on Maoists, land takeover, the Athirapally hydro-electric project, protests at the Kerala Law Academy and handling of the Jishnu murder case.
The Supreme Court too pulled up the Vijayan government by asking him to reinstate T.P. Senkumar as Kerala’s police chief. When the government did not do so, it was fined Rs 25,000.
Senkumar was removed on the day Vijayan assumed office. The top cop sought solace from the judicial system — and got justice after 11 months.
Vijayan’s performance in the state assembly won him more enemies than friends as he speaks as if he is handling CPI-M committees — where he is the final word.
But not all is lost.
Raju Abraham, a five-time CPI-M legislator from Ranni in Pathanamthitta district, said: “The government has been busy in working out programmes for building a strong Kerala. More than 100 high-profile meetings have been held. These things will be visible in the coming two years.
“Giant strides have been made in the health and education sectors. In the health sector, hundreds of new posts have been created. The general education sector has been rejuvenated at all levels. Today students are returning to the government educational system,” he added.
CPI-M leader and former Rajya Sabha member A. Vijayaraghavan said the party was generally happy with Vijayan’s governance.
“The government can take pride as it has injected funds to revive the social sector, especially by clearing all the pension arrears and also by hiking it. It has also fought corruption.
“New programmes are in the pipeline to safeguard and protect the environment. The first year was more of a watch and wait strategy. Now it will be in a fast forward mode,” he said.