CM and Satheesan lock horns over use of local body funds for Navakerala Sadas

November 24, 2023 08:10 pm | Updated 08:21 pm IST

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other Ministers arriving for the Navakerala Sadas at Kallachi in Kozhikode on Friday.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other Ministers arriving for the Navakerala Sadas at Kallachi in Kozhikode on Friday.

Thiruvananthapuram

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan on Friday skirmished over the mustering of funds by local bodies to conduct the Cabinet’s public outreach programme, Navakerala Sadas.

The debate unfolded against the backdrop of the Opposition’s accusation that the Cabinet had mobilised the State machinery and drawn on the public exchequer to organise a political campaign thinly veiled as public hearings.

Mr. Satheesan said Additional Chief Secretary Sarada Muraleedharan had transgressed the Kerala Municipal Act, 1994 by ordering local self-government institutions to use their “own funds” to bankroll the ruling Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) 44-day-long drive. He said the United Democratic Front would move the court against the order.

Mr. Satheesan said the directive dovetailed with the government’s subversion of GST intelligence to coerce businesses to sponsor Navakerala Sadas. He alleged that the government threatened to terminate the services of an officer on probation in a local body when he pointed out that Ms. Muraleedharan’s order violated the municipal Act.

Mr. Satheesan said the same pattern of arm-twisting played out across the State. The dispensation forced government employees, teachers, schoolchildren, Kudambashree and ASHA workers to attend the Navakerala Sadas to show numbers.

Mr. Satheesan said LDF convener E.P. Jayarajan had issued a circular that framed the Navakerala Sadas as a political exercise to increase the ruling front’s public acceptance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Mr. Vijayan used the venues to assail the UDF relentlessly. The Navakerala Sadas provided no relief or hope to the public. “It is a sham and made for television spectacle of no consequence,” he said.

Mr. Vijayan’s riposte came at a press conference in Kozhikode. He accused Mr. Satheesan of infringing on the fiscal and administrative independence of Congress-ruled LSGIs by deterring them from collaborating with the government’s programme. He termed Mr. Satheesan’s decree that UDF-ruled local bodies should shun the Cabinet’s public outreach programme “immature”. Mr. Vijayan said Mr. Satheesan became increasingly isolated in the UDF for his obstinate opposition to the Navakerala Sadas.

He said Congress-ruled local bodies would break ranks with the party to attend the campaign in the public interest.

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