Five years ago, as the United Democratic Front government was entering its third year, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) organised a conversation between its State Secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, and Professor Ninan Koshy, educationist and social activist. The party newspaper reproduced the dialogue under the headline "Two years of UDF misrule."
It is now the UDF's turn to return the compliment. As the Left Democratic Front government prepares to celebrate its second anniversary, which falls on Sunday next (May 18), the UDF is getting ready to observe "betrayal day".
"Since the LDF has failed to deliver, we have no option but to protest," UDF Convener PP Thankachan had said last month.
Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan described the UDF "betrayal day" as routine mourning. However, the upbeat mood that prevailed in the LDF camp as the government entered the second year is clearly lacking as it enters the third year.
The government's first year was marked by infighting in the CPI (M). Ministers belonging to the Pinarayi Vijayan faction appeared to have an agenda of their own. Emboldened by the party secretary's patronage, they even defied the Chief Minister on some occasions.
Yet the government had two major achievements to its credit: the Smart City deal with the Dubai Internet City authorities to set up an IT park and the Munnar evictions which raised hopes of putting an end to land grabbing.
On the eve of the second anniversary, the sectarianism that raged on the CPI (M) a year ago has subsided. The Central leadership has made it clear that the dominant faction cannot dislodge the Chief Minister.
However, there is no new achievement to create the kind of euphoria that was in evidence a year ago. In fact, no significant project has taken shape in the past year.
A few days ago the Chief Minister announced plans to launch or commission a number of schemes as part of the anniversary celebrations. It is difficult to feel enthused by the planned events.
Take, for instance, the foundation stone laying ceremonies. One of the institutions for which foundation stone is to be laid is the Space Research Institute. It is a project of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The foundation stone lying ceremonies of the Indian Institute of Science and the International Convention Centre on the banks of the Akkulam Lake are premature. Work on these projects cannot be taken up immediately as the necessary formalities are incomplete.
The State can take credit for the Neriamangalam hydro-electric extension project, which is to be commissioned during the anniversary celebrations. But the LDF has to share it with the UDF. It was the UDF government that launched the project, which has raised the State's power generation capacity by a modest 25 MW.
Another anniversary scheme envisages writing off agricultural loans of up to Rs. 25,000, which will reportedly benefit 41,000 farmers of Wayanad district. Critics have pointed out that the loan waiver is under a Central scheme, not the State scheme announced earlier.
On the agricultural front, the government's record remains dismal. Differences between the CPI (M) and the CPI have stalled the food security scheme proposed by the Centre.
The draft scheme circulated by the Centre envisages the formation of a committee under the State Agriculture Minister to oversee its implementation. The CPI (M), however, wants a committee of ministers, headed by the Chief Minister, to be in charge.
Apparently the CPI (M) wants to have control over this scheme and is not willing to leave it to the CPI, which holds charge of Agriculture. The LDF could not resolve the dispute as both the parties were unrelenting.
Meanwhile there is reason to think that the LDF mandate has started running out. In a set of 24 panchayat by-elections held last week, the UDF grabbed five seats from the LDF, one from the Bharatiya Janata Party and two from independents to chalk up a total of 12 seats. The LDF got 11 seats, of which only one was previously held by the UDF. One seat went to an independent.
The UDF lead may be slender but this is the first time in two years that it has had an edge over the LDF in panchayat elections. In the by-elections held earlier, the LDF had fared better than the UDF. –Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 12, 2008