May confront Sudheeran on several issues
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is an apt quote to describe the predicament that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is likely to face during the remaining two years of his term in office.
Mr. Chandy’s hands have been strengthened by the 12-seat victory for the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the much better performance by the Congress that bucked doomsayers. If at all the Congress party received a set-back in a few of its core constituencies, it was not because of an anti-incumbency vote against the Chandy government.
It can be attributed to Central policies, including the K. Kasturirangan report on the Western Ghats conservation that sent the High Ranges off to a tizzy on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. The Chandy government did take several policy initiatives to cushion the adverse impact of these Central policies, particularly the frequent hikes in petroleum prices.
But in the case of the Kasturirangan report, the Congress and the UDF could not outlive the high wire resentment of the electorate in the High Ranges, overtly stoked by the Catholic church.
Going by the election results, it is clear that the resentment was directed at the Congress candidates in one form or the other because the Kerala Congress (M), the other claimant to the core Catholic constituency, scaled new heights when its candidate Jose K. Mani notched a 1.2-lakh victory margin. Mr. Chandy did not mince words in his reactions to the election results when he said that the UDF had to swim against the current.
To cover the lost ground, he has already announced ‘‘Mission 676’’ programme, which is intended to implement a series of projects in the remaining two years of his term in office. Some of these projects are already in the processing stage, while new ones have been formulated. One of the major hurdles he is likely to face is the fading lines of consensus in the Congress on key policy issues.
Mr. Chandy is likely to find himself in a confrontation mode with Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president V.M. Sudheeran if he has not travelled in that direction yet. There are several issues that the two leaders have divergent perceptions from political and administrative perspectives. A consensus on the liquor bar licence has been elusive. With several infra-projects related to land development, there is bound to be some controversies which may bog down the government functioning.
Another challenge that Mr. Chandy would have to face is in relation to getting Central assistance for various projects. He had to virtually move obstinate Union Ministries to get Kerala’s share even under a Congress regime. Now with the Narendra Modi era all set to begin, it may be much more difficult to get Kerala’s voice heard in Delhi, be it the Kasturirangan report or other proposals, despite Mr. Chandy’s announcement that he did not intend pushing Kerala into a confrontation mode with the Centre.
The KPCC executive committee meeting which is scheduled on May 29 will give indications about how the Congress and the UDF politics will shape up in the post-election period. But the biggest task, the Congress leaders feel, is to tread the path of consensus on various issues in order to be heard at the BJP-ruled Centre.