Centre says final decision only after consultations with the State government

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has made a strong case for the implementation of the Kasturirangan recommendation for the conservation of Western Ghats keeping in mind the severe drubbing that the Congress party got in the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Chandy appears to have succeeded to an extent in presenting Kerala’s case before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Central government, besides making a major political point for the benefit of the Congress party’s core constituency, the thrifty Christian community of Central Travancore.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar’s assurance that a final decision will be taken only after consultations with the State governments concerned is indeed a consolation, but the Minister’s statement that both the Gadgil committee and the Kasturirangan committee reports will be examined together and that the views of other States will also be considered is equally significant. Environment protection was as important as protecting the lives of the people, Mr. Javadekar said in Delhi.

The Kasturirangan committee itself was appointed after States such as Kerala expressed apprehension at the impact of the Gadgil report. During the fag end of the UPA II Ministry term, the row over the identification of 123 villages as ecologically sensitive areas shook the UDF government.

The Congress lost the Idukki seat, besides doing very badly in some of the Assembly segments in the high ranges. The BJP in Kerala had supported the Gadgil committee report and the Bharatiya Vichar Kendram, the think tank of the RSS, held a seminar here the other day initiating a debate on the pros and cons of the issue.

The Congress party and the UDF government missed the bus in getting the UPA government to withdraw the government notification on the ESA villages. With the new government assuming power in Delhi, it was only natural for the Chief Minister to take up the Kasturirangan report implementation as a priority since it has become a political imperative for the party to regain its base in the high ranges.

Cabinet reshuffle

Mr. Chandy’s discussion with the Congress High Command also assumes significance, leading to speculations that he might go in for a Cabinet reshuffle and that the party leadership has given the green signal for this as part of an attempt to refurbish the image of the party and the ruling coalition. But Mr. Chandy has preferred to keep everyone guessing by stating that the Cabinet reshuffle would be discussed by the State leadership of the party and the UDF, prior to bringing it up before the party high command.

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