OVER ITS first 100 days, the LDF government in Kerala has been markedly different from its LDF and UDF predecessors in at least one aspect — it is being identified with one leader. From government advertisements to policy decisions to the budget speech, it has been been the “Vijayan government” to such an extent that critics have said Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister, is duplicating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s style of functioning.
The comparisons became all the sharper Thursday when Vijayan addressed people on radio, similar to the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat.
Describing the achievements of his government in 100 days, he called for a fight against attempts to create social conflict.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government is inactive. “The achievements highlighted were contributions of the previous UDF government,” he said. “The government could not check price rice. Power has got concentrated in Vijayan, who is following the Modi line of governance.”
Vijayan has the advantage of holding the party under his firm control. When V S Achuthanandan was CM in the last LDF regime, the CPM led by Vijayan had the final say on vital matters. Today, Vijayan faces no dissenting voice within. To silence his old critic VS, Vijayan has made him chairman of the administrative reforms committee.
The party and its feeder organisations were silent when Vijayan banned Onam celebrations at government offices during duty hours. There is a feeling in government circles that Vijayan has emerged powerful because most of his cabinet colleagues are first-timers.
Vijayan also posts frequently on Facebook. Like previous chief minister Oommen Chandy, who sought to give governance a humane face by helping the indisposed and the needy, Vijayan too has tried to ensure aid to such people.
At the same time, he presents a tough face to state employees, asking them to stay in their seats and clear files. Breaking a tradition set by his predecessors, Vijayan does not hold weekly cabinet briefings. The crowd that used to jostle around Chandy is now missing from the corridors of the secretariat.
The LDF came to power on the promise that “LDF will come, everything will be fine”. Vijayan said the government wants long-term development of the state and relief measures for people in distress to be taken together. “The limited resources will not hamper the development agenda,” Vijayan said. “We have formed KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board) which is expected to mobilise Rs 50,000 crore in the next five years. Kerala would be left behind if we adopted a stand that projects would be launched only after mobilising resources.” KIIFB proposes to mobilise the funds by issuing bonds and raising term loans from banks. The finance department has made allotment for infrastructure projects from this yet-to-be functional board.
Vijayan said the government also aims to start a “Clean Kerala” mission, which would enable the state to become completely litter-free state in five years.
Among the government’s populist measures, one has been to raise welfare pension from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, to be delivered to the homes of 17 lakh beneficiaries through a network of cooperative banks. The government has announced a debt relief scheme for farmers and fishermen, and also kept it promise to reopen 30 state-owned cashew factories, which have 1,600 workers. And in a state where hundreds of schools have been termed uneconomical, the government took over four aided schools attended by children of weaker sections, which had shut down.
The LDF government has indicated the UDF’s liquor policy, total prohibition in a decade, is set for change. The tourism department has called for reopening of liquor bars. Changing the policy would be a challenge for the LDF, considering the protests from the UDF and the temperance movement.
The government has resumed land acquisition for national highways, a GAIL pipeline and other infrastructure projects pending due to public opposition.
Vijayan courted controversy over the appointment of legal adviser M K Damodaran and economic adviser Gita Gopinath. Damodaran had embarrassed the government by appearing against the state, while Left intellectuals and a section in the CPM questioned Gopinath’s appointment as she represents neo-liberal policies.
Vijayan went against popular sentiment when he observed that the Mullaperiyar dam is safe and a new dam is unnecessary. When this became a controversy, he corrected himself.
After taking over, the new government brought DGP Jacob Thomas back as the head of the Vigilance Bureau. He had been shunted out by the former government for his stand on cases against ministers.
The government will bring out anti-corruption index, to be updated periodically in every department. Besides, a new mechanism will be put in place to alert the public about corruption in offices, it has said. The drive on transparency has, however, been robbed of its sheen with the government saying it will not reveal cabinet decisions under the RTI Act.
Political violence has again become frequent in North Kerala. Violence involving the CPM and the BJP, which began the day election results were announced, is continuing at regular intervals. There have been a few political murders in Kannur.