UDF has only razor-thin majority in district panchayat

Factionalism within the ruling Congress in the district panchayat came to the fore with seven members belonging to the ‘I’ group abstaining from the budget presentation on Tuesday which eventually resulted in not putting the budget for voting to avoid embarrassment for the ruling party, which has only a razor-thin majority in the civic body.

In the 26-member panchayat committee, UDF has 14 members, two of them belonging to Socialist Janata (Democratic), and LDF 12 members.

Walkout

As soon as vice-president Rufus Daniel rose to present the budget for 2014-15, the LDF members led by its leader N. Ratheendran drew attention of the committee to the absence of ruling party members. As a mark of protest, the LDF members staged a walkout and returned after president Ansajitha Ressal assured that the absentees would join during the course of budget discussion.

Mr. Daniel presented the budget that envisages an income of Rs 150.08 crore, and expenditure of Rs 142.74 crore and later in the day the annual financial statement was taken up for discussion.

The budget lays emphasis on improving facilities in hospitals and schools managed by the civic body, besides taking up repair of 275 km of road and adding 75 km of new roads.

The scene continued with the members, including former president Remani P. Nair, staying away from the proceedings giving enough room for LDF to pin down the ruling party on several counts.

After members spoke, Mr. Daniel appealed to the committee to consider the budget as having passed inviting vociferous protests from LDF members. Mr. Ratheendran appealed to panchayat secretary K. Chandrasekhar not to consider the ‘unconstitutional’ demand of the vice-president. Amidst the din, the committee was adjourned for the day.

Congress member Malayankeezhu Venugopal, who was among those who stayed away from the proceedings, told The Hindu that they decided to abstain because there was no pre-budget consultation.

“We were not consulted prior to the formulation of the budget. The matter was taken up with the District Congress Committee and it was decided not to take up discussion of budget on the day it was presented. But without consulting anyone, the budget was taken up for discussion on the same day it was presented,” he said.

Denies feud

He went on to add that the decision to abstain from the budget presentation was not the result of factional feud. However, when asked why only members belonging to ‘I’ group stayed away, he refused to comment.

Not willing to buy the argument that the day’s happenings were not part of groupism, Mr. Ratheendran said factionalism has impinged on the functioning of the civic body and it reflected in the budget presentation.

Ms. Ressal, however, put a brave front by stating that all issues would be sorted out and the budget would be passed shortly.