Land issues set to dominate UDF meet

Differences likely to crop up between allies

The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership’s intention in convening a full-day session might have been to discuss policy matters that would give a political direction to its government. But going by the developments of the last one week, Monday’s full-day session, to be held in Kovalam, is likely to witness difference of opinion between leaders of the constituent parties, with land issues turning out to be the main point of dispute.

The previous UDF leadership meeting had decided on the full-day session following protests by some of the constituents against the failure to find time to hold meaningful discussions on policy matters.

Currently, Minister for Finance and Law K.M. Mani and Minister for Revenue Adoor Prakash are on a collision course over the circulation of a draft bill, the Kerala Land Utilisation Bill, on conversion of paddy land for industrial uses.

The verbal dual between the two has gone overboard to the extent of even questioning the collective responsibility of the Oommen Chandy Cabinet.

While Mr. Mani holds the view that Mr. Prakash would not have openly engaged in a row without the tacit approval of the Chief Minister, Mr. Prakash feels that Mr. Mani continues to think that he is Revenue Minister. His open statement, while confronting Mr. Mani on the bill, was also meant to send a clear message to his officials that he preferred to be the boss in the Revenue Department.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy did make some feeble attempts to defuse the emerging tensions, but it has not had much effect going by the continued sparring between the two Ministers. He would have to umpire the row in the UDF and ensure that the coalition takes the final call on the fate of the bill.


Minister for Forests K.B. Ganesh Kumar has also strongly opposed the changes proposed to the Ecologically Fragile Land Act. His dispute with Government Chief Whip P.C. George over the status of the Nelliampathy estates is far from over and would come up for discussion. The UDF panel appointed to examine the Nelliampathy issue wound up its work as divided lot and is yet to submit its report to facilitate a political decision.

The Forests Minister has expressed his reservations on the amendments to the EFL Act by reportedly writing to the Chief Minister about his stand. In the previous meeting, the UDF had come to a unanimous conclusion that the fair value of land was discriminatory. It had entrusted Registration Minister Anoop Jacob to formulate a scheme at the Department level and submit it for political approval of the UDF.

Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph and Panchayat Minister M.K. Muneer also went into a collision mode over the control of the National Rural Livelihood Mission, with the latter maintaining that the Kudumbasree would run it and the former disputing his claims.

The Chief Minister has clarified that the NRLM would be under Kudumbasree, but he would have to do a lot of convincing because the Congress considers that it should have more stakes in the running of the Kudumbasree, given the dominance of the CPI (M) in its affairs.

There are several other policy issues that require urgent attention of the UDF leadership, but it is doubtful whether even a full day session would be able to resolve them, sources said.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 3:14:54 AM |

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