On first anniversary, Pinarayi govt. seeks to better its public image

Marred by a host of unnecessary controversies, the second Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)]-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government is seeking to refurbish its sagging public image as it celebrates its first anniversary on Friday.

Right from the formation of the Cabinet to the latest round of verbal one-upmanship between Health Minister Veena George of the CPI(M) and Deputy Speaker and Communist Party of India leader Chittayam Gopakumar, the one-year regime of the LDF has earned some bad press.

However, the politically trouble-free Left coalition can fervently hope to implement some of its poll promises, especially the ambitious Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi-high-speed rail (SilverLine) project, even as the Thrikkakara Assembly bypoll outcome may throw up challenges to the Pinarayi Vijayan government. Given its dominant position in the sweepstakes, a CPI(M) triumph in the tightly contested bypoll will bolster the confidence of the Left government. On the other hand, a failure to wrest the seat, despite marshalling all its resources, will mean a damaging loss of face.

In his first innings as Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. Vijayan had proved his mettle when the State was reeling under the impact of the two successive floods and subsequently the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second tenure

The beginning of the second tenure witnessed the government’s love-hate relationship with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on various issues, including the appointment of Vice Chancellors, the illegal felling of centuries-old rosewood trees in Muttil South village in Wayanad and the order by the Department of Forest and Wildlife granting permission to Tamil Nadu to fell 15 trees downstream the Baby Dam of Mullaperiyar.

The controversy over Kitex Garments deciding to withdraw its proposal to invest ₹3,500 crore in the State and the Supreme Court rejecting the State government’s plea to withdraw prosecution against six members of the LDF in the Assembly ruckus case of 2015 dented the image of the government.

Besides, the strikes at public sector enterprises such as the Kerala State Electricity Board and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, the political killings in Palakkad and the agitations against the SilverLine project put pressure on the government. Recently, the government switched to the geo-tagging method instead of survey stone-laying to notify the boundaries of SilverLine project when the bypoll is just around the corner.

Although the government has been able to tame inflation to a certain extent in the State, its biggest battle will be fighting for the survival of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB). The Centre wants the borrowings made by KIIFB to be included within the State’s annual open market borrowings quota. These borrowings were till now considered off-Budget and did not figure in the State’s deficit calculations.

The borrowing ceiling of States is fixed at 3.5% of their GSDP, and most of these goes to finance committed expenditures like salaries, pensions and interest payments leaving virtually nothing for development.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2022 11:48:33 pm |