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Kerala’s rival fronts on back foot

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Oomen Chandy -

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy during an election Campaign rally supporting Congress Candidate in Coimbatore on April 19, 2014. (Photo: IANS)By Sanu George

The winter session of the Kerala assembly beginning here Monday will see the rival fronts – the ruling Congress and the CPI(M) -led opposition – entering the house on the back foot.

This peculiar situation has risen because there are issues plaguing both and despite their best efforts, a solution to their ills is not yet forthcoming and hence none appears to have an edge over the other.

The Left opposition could have easily floored the Oommen Chandy government over what was probably the biggest opportunity it got last month when whistleblower bar owner Biju Ramesh alleged that Finance Minister K.M.Mani was given Rs.1 crore as the first instalment of bribe for allowing to open 418 bars that have shut this fiscal.

Mani’s party, the Kerala Congress (Mani), is the third biggest ally of the Chandy government and has nine legislators.

But things did not go the way they should have for the opposition as the majority faction of the powerful CPI-M group, led by state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, had a soft corner for 81-year-old Mani, who has been a legislator since 1967 and was eyeing the chief minister’s post. This is the single post that has eluded him and he was aiming to finish off his political career in style.

Mani, for all practical purposes, had got the tacit support for his long-term ambition and for that Vijayan was willing to back him, provided he broke from the Chandy government.

But things did not go the way Mani wanted to. With the allegation surfacing in a big way, thanks to the media, the beleaguered Mani who was always seen in public with his head held high, went into a huddle and people in Kerala were shocked to see him appear before the media with folded hands and say that he does not have any ambition and was happy where he was.

In the Left front, things have reached a point of no return with the bickering between the CPI-M and the CPI spilling over to the streets. This reached its pinnacle last week with the two top leaders of these parties taking on one another.

The CPI was unhappy with Vijayan extending an olive branch to Mani and on this issue, the two communist party organs are having a field day with each trying to outwit the other, by taking on one another.

Another feature of the upcoming session would be the absence of Speaker G. Karthikeyan, known for his smooth handling of any situation. He is not in the best of his health and the entire proceedings of the house would be handled by his deputy, Sakthan Nadar.

On Wednesday, he had called a meeting of leaders of all the parties in the assembly at his house and sought the cooperation of all.

Karthikeyan told IANS that his presence during the session will be minimal.

With the rival fronts on the back foot due to their own creation, all eyes would be on the manner in which the “bargate” allegation is raked up by the Left opposition. It would be interesting to see how Chandy and Mani react to it, besides the way the CPI takes this up.