Violent agitation in high ranges against report
The violent agitations that gripped the high ranges in protest against the move to implement the Kasturirangan committee report on the Western Ghats have forced the United Democratic Front, particularly the Congress, to press the panic button.
The State leadership is finding itself in a fix as it has to defend the action of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s action while at the same time allay mounting apprehension among the people living in the high ranges, where the Congress and the Kerala Congress (M) have a large following.
To make matters worse, the Catholic Church has taken the lead in the current round of agitations against the implementation of the report, under the aegis of the High Range Protection Committee.
The CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front has obviously smelt a political opportunity in the Catholic Church’s stance, helping it to draw enough strength for its current round of agitation that will culminate in a hartal on Monday.
The ambivalent stance of Kerala Congress(M) leader K.M. Mani on his support to the LDF agitation has given another dimension to the issue, suggesting possibilities of political shifts.
The Congress leadership was at pains to explain away the irrationality of the agitations. Both Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala went to great extent to point out that the Kasturirangan committee had only submitted a draft and the affected States would have four months to submit views, prior to a final decision.
But an interim order issued by the Centre recently under the environment protect laws, purporting to be partial implementation of the report, in five crucial areas only served to put the entire issue on an edge of suspicion.
“The Congress will not allow any action that will severely affect the population in the high ranges,” Mr. Chennithala asserted.
Congress sources here said the divergent perception in the Congress at the Centre on the conservation of the Western Ghats had added to the confusion. All political parties in the State were for conservation of the Western Ghats but differed with the approaches suggested by the Gadgil and Kasturirangan committees.
With the political division in the State quite narrow, the fallout of the controversy over the committee reports could be devastating, particularly for the Congress.
The Congress had been battling the setback it received on account of the solar scam and factional feuds.
The only solace it had amid these developments was the unstinted support it received from the Church. Goaded by the pressures from various constituents of the UDF, the Congress had also taken the initiative to sort out problems within the UDF and within the party.
The agitations demanding the withdrawal of the notification issued the other day might prove to be disruptive for the Congress leadership in its search for a formula that would help it perform well in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.