A third minister submitted his resignation from the LDF government in Kerala on Wednesday, after causing immense embarrassment to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and triggering a rift between the CPM and the CPI. Thomas Chandy, the NCP’s nominee to the ministry, could have quit as transport minister when the Kerala High Court reprimanded him for challenging a government report earlier this week. Instead, Chandy said he would move the Supreme Court against the Alappuzha district collector’s report which said that a luxury resort owned by him violated wetland conservation laws.
If Chandy’s legal challenge raised questions about the cabinet’s collective responsibility, the CPI ministers staying away from a cabinet meeting to protest Chandy’s continuance in the government undermined the chief minister’s authority. Vijayan persuaded Chandy to resign on Wednesday, but his personal credibility and the LDF government’s image has taken a knocking. Further, the unease stoked in CPM-CPI relations doesn’t augur well for the smooth functioning of the government.
By all accounts, charges of corruption and cronyism cost the Congress-led UDF the assembly election last year. With a little over a year in office, the LDF should worry if it is headed the same way. Weeks after the government was formed, Vijayan’s confidant and industries minister, E.P. Jayarajan, quit after he was found to have appointed relatives as heads of PSUs. In March this year, the NCP’s nominee in the government, A.K. Saseendran, left, following a phone sex scandal. And now, Chandy, who was Saseendran’s replacement. The LDF may claim that the resignations indicate its commitment to enforce accountability in the government.
But it can’t escape the question: Why have so many of its ministers been found wanting in their conduct, that too in such a short span? Chandy’s controversial record as a businessman predates his entry into politics. Yet, the CPM state leadership overruled its local leaders to field him as an LDF candidate and then risked controversy by making him a minister. The NCP, with just two MLAs, clearly knows how to pull its weight in the LDF, which has a strength of 91 in a House of 140 seats.
The CPM’s feeble excuse that it left the choice of minister to the NCP is unconvincing in this case: It has neither helped the government nor the coalition. The LDF’s mandate was to provide a clean, efficient government. It also has the numbers to stay above the pulls and pressures of coalition politics. The Vijayan government needs to steer clear of controversies and work towards respecting and meeting the people’s expectations.