Congress-Government Coordination Committee meeting today

The Congress-Government Coordination Committee that will meet here on Tuesday is expected to work out a strategy to tackle the possible fallout of the K. Kasturirangan report on the conservation of Western Ghats that has identified 123 villages in the State as ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs).

Senior party leaders are expecting some sort of action from the Union government, at least to the extent of accepting the Oommen V. Oommen panel report that had recommended exemption from the ESA provisions for an area over 3,000 sq miles, including populated areas and rubber plantations.

Congress leaders said they would be happy if the Union government were to issue orders to achieve this objective, as it would give the party much-wanted advantage in the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.

If the Centre does issue the promised course correction, the Congress leadership will have to work its way out of the problems created by the report, and recapture its space among the settler segments of the electorate. If the amendments do not come through, then the leadership will find itself in a political bind that might not be easy to untie.

Communal imbalance

The Congress leadership spent a major part of the past three years trying to correct the communal imbalance in a coalition that had a pre-dominant minority tilt.

The correction was achieved with the induction of Ramesh Chennithala as Home Minister and V.M. Sudheeran as the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president.

It is an irony that the party should find itself at odds with the settler community and the Catholic Church, both of whom have been steadfast supporters of the Congress and the United Democratic Front, that too at a time when the coalition leaders believed that they were on a good political wicket.

Party leaders here are inclined to blame the Centre for its slow reaction to the political impact of the Kasturirangan report. “The Chief Minister had, in his memorandum to the Prime Minister in the last week of January, highlighted the urgency of accepting Kerala’s demand for changes. The response of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests appears to be ambiguous,” a senior Congress leader said. The Congress leaders might find it difficult to keep down criticism against Union Minister for Environment and Forests M. Veerappa Moily’s actions, sources said.

Party sources said a specific agenda had not been fixed for the party-Government Coordination Committee meeting. The committee’s meeting on January 17 had kept aside several issues for in-depth discussions at a later date. These included the Congress’s stand on the proposed Aranmula airport and code of conduct for ministers. The party leadership would be under pressure for time to discuss theses matters.

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