Antony’s speech at BrahMos unit

Continuing the debate on what Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony could have meant when he spoke about the State government’s response to defence projects in Kerala, Labour Minister Shibu Baby John and Congress legislator K. Muraleedharan have called for an introspection by the United Democratic Front (UDF) government, albeit taking different positions on the real purport of Mr. Antony’s speech.

Inaugurating a seminar conducted by the Information and Public Relations Department here on the occasion of National Media Day on Friday, Mr. John said Mr. Antony’s speech (at the BrahMos’s unit here on Wednesday) called for an introspection by the ruling UDF. At the same time, it draws attention to a ‘greater question’: how did Central projects find a warm welcome during the Left Democratic Front’s tenure and hit roadblocks during the UDF’s term.

Citing the example of the Aranmula airport project and the row over paddy field reclamation there, Mr. John said the people who were opposing the project now, including poet Sugathakumari, were very much here when the LDF took initiatives for the project as also for tourism projects at Nelliampathy, Dharmadom, and other ecologically sensitive areas. However, there was no controversy then.

Similarly, the then Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem had taken a ‘bold step’ to forbid trade union activity in industries and his move was well-accepted then. Whether the reaction in the State would be the same if the present Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty takes such a decision is a point to be pondered over. One should also consider whether the work culture here gels with the Union Defence Department’s disciplined approach.


Mr. Muraleedharan, on the other hand, said Mr. Antony’s statement could not be seen against the isolated background of the issues involving the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) in the BrahMos installation here, more so because Mr. Antony was not one who gave in easily to provocations or who made emotional statements. Mr. Antony always thought twice and weighed each of his words. Therefore, the UDF, while doing an introspection on its performance, should also think of the situation that could have prompted such a speech from Mr. Antony.

Mr. Antony’s words, Mr. Muraleedharan added, should be seen as an opportunity to see if there was anything wrong in the current approach and to rectify the same.