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Governor’s address skirts around contentious issues

Government attempts a relaunch of its proclaimed flagship programmes

January 23, 2023 06:03 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:11 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government appeared to tread softly around contentious political and constitutional issues deemed critical of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government in its policy agenda for the 2023-24 fiscal set out in Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s address to the Assembly at the opening of the Budget session on Monday.

The government also used the Governor’s policy address to relaunch its proclaimed vision of a modern and developed Kerala moored to technological progress, social welfare, and scientific temper.

Mr. Khan’s speech seemed a mixed manifesto of Kerala’s stated flagship programmes. It dwelled on the comprehensive medical insurance scheme covering an estimated 30 lakh serving and retired State government employees, emancipation of 64,000 impoverished families, land and housing for all, geriatric welfare, women empowerment, people-centric technology-driven e-governance, creation of a higher-learning based knowledge economy, job creation, and wooing global investment.

The policy statement seemed to take a mild and non-recriminatory swipe at the Centre’s alleged infringements on fiscal and legislative federalism.

For one, Mr. Khan read, “Recent measures to curtail the borrowing limits of the States constrain the scope of their interventions in the health, education, and infrastructural sectors. While fiscal discipline has to be enforced in earnest, there cannot be different yardsticks for State governments, which do not apply to the Union Government”.

The comment seemed subdued compared to the LDF’s past criticism of the Centre’s move to haul down the borrowing limit of States by factoring in off-Budget borrowing by government entities in the public debt account without applying the same yardstick to the Centre’s loan limit.

Mr. Khan also dwelled on the alleged jurisdictional overreach of the Centre in the lawmaking process in a somewhat mild manner. “Incursions into the legislative domain of the States do not augur well for a cooperative federal setup,” he said.

The government’s criticism of Raj Bhavan’s “refusal” to sign Bills passed by the Assembly into law seemed reflected in the policy address in a backhanded manner. “My government is committed to the constitutional value that the intention of the legislature should take effect as law,” Mr. Khan said.

The Leader of the Opposition slammed the policy address as untruthful, bereft of new ideas, and devoid of any meaningful criticism of the Centre’s policies. “The government has reached a compromise with the Governor, whom it termed an RSS agent,” he said.

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