A meeting called by Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph to review progress of the Kuttanad Package at Mankombu here on Monday ended in chaos and in major embarrassment for the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) with the minister getting engaged in a heated argument with senior Congress parliamentarian Kodikunnil Suresh.
Both the minister and the MP were on a confrontation path right from the beginning of the meeting, more so after Mr. Suresh repeatedly argued that the package was going nowhere due to inordinate delays in getting projects approved. Mr. Joseph, on the other hand, had replied that the package was very much on track and that the package’s designer, noted agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan himself had certified this. The only issue that Dr. Swaminathan pointed out was the slow pace, and this, the Minister said, was being addressed by the Government.
The verbal war however went a notch higher towards the end of the meeting when Mr. Joseph, following a suggestion from the audience that a parallel canal be considered instead of deepening the existing AC Canal, asked for opinion from the rest of the audience. Congress workers and a few farmers immediately opposed the idea, and the Minister assured them that the idea was being dropped with a detailed project report on the deepening of the AC Canal to be ready within a month.
Mr. Suresh meanwhile, alleging that the Minister, by merely considering the suggestion of a parallel canal, had triggered panic among the farmers and said that “this should not become another Mullaperiyar.” This comment from the MP however angered the Minister, who in turn retorted that Mr. Suresh, being “a responsible MP” should not have made such a statement and “dragged Mullaperiyar into Kuttanad”. This however was misunderstood by the MP’s followers, who accused the Minister of calling Mr. Suresh an “irresponsible MP”.
Slogans against the minister and counters-slogans against the MP followed, with supporters of both starting to jostle with each other.
Police by then managed to disperse the crowd and whisk away the Minister.