KERALA

Jacob hits out at Planning Board appointments

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 17. The Kerala Congress (M) leaders T. M. Jacob and Johnny Nellore today accused the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, of politicising the State Planning Board.

Addressing a press conference here today, the leaders said that the Planning Board appointments were not discussed by the UDF liaison committee and politically cleared by it. Mr. Jacob said that usually only experts were appointed as members of the Planning Board and not meant for political appointments.

During Mr. A. K. Antony's tenure as Chief Minister, the UDF had discussed in detail the appointments to the Planning Board before the Cabinet gave its approval.

The Chief Minister's attempt to draw a similarity between the Planning Board and the Planning Commission was untenable. In this case, the appointees had political backgrounds.

One of the new members, Phillipose Thomas was Mr. Chandy's man, while Mr. Mohan Gopal was a former KSU leader.

He said that before deciding to induct politicians on the Board, the matter should have been debated at political forums.

There were several other avenues to accommodate politicians, he added.

Politicisation

He also questioned the contention that the Planning Board came under the Government and its primary duty was to implement the Government's policies.

The board's primary duty was to prepare the annual plan after detailed discussions, after which the Cabinet ratifies its recommendations. At best, the Government could make changes to its recommendations only when it came before the Cabinet, he said.

Wrong precedent

Mr. Jacob said the politicisation of the Planning Board would set a wrong precedent. The decision was the outcome of the authoritarian tendencies of the Chief Minister, whose main aim was to establish his writ. The Chief Minister had changed a lot since assuming the office and "the face we find now is not the one we knew as UDF convener and a Minister," he added.

Mr. Jacob alleged that the Science and Technology Council had also been politicised leading to the resignation of Dr. M. S. Valiathan, who had been handpicked by Mr. Antony to revamp the department.

He said that the Chief Minister was adopting a high-handed attitude on the strength of the UDF's majority in the Assembly.

Matters had come to such a pass that it was difficult to state whether the UDF existed.

Mr. Nellore, supplementing to Mr. Jacob's views, said that the joint legislature party meeting of the UDF had not been convened for months. Mr. Antony has stated that he was helpless, while the UDF convener, P. P. Thankachan, also took a similar position.

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