Monday, April 20, 2009

Governmental machinery comes alive after poll break

Gulf Today

THE administrative machinery, which came to a grinding halt as election fever gripped Kerala, has started moving again. However, an air of uncertainty prevails in the state as the election results remain unknown.

The state went to the polls on Thursday, along with more than 100 other constituencies in different parts of the country. Counting of votes will take place only on May 16 after the completion of all five phases of polling.

The state secretariat wore a deserted look during the past few weeks as election work kept ministers and officials busy. Most ministers were out of the capital, overseeing the campaigns of their parties in the various districts. They were so preoccupied that even the garrulous among them, who habitually hog attention with controversial remarks, were out of the media for several days.

Several thousand government officials had been drafted for election duty. This resulted in dislocation of normal activity in many offices.

Statements recorded by the police in the course of investigation of suspected terrorist links found their way into the media during the campaigm. The names of People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Abdul Naser Ma'dani, and his wife Sufia figured in several of them.

Sufia Ma'dani's name came up also in the statements of persons whom the police had interrogated in connection with the burning of a Tamil Nadu bus at Kalamassery, near Kochi, when Ma'dani was a Coimbatore jail.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) accused the state police of ignoring these statements because of the camaraderie between the PDP and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).

As Advocate-General CP Sudhakar Prasad delayed legal advice on the Central Bureau of Investigation's request for permission to prosecute CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, there was no forward movement in the Lavalin case.

However, on poll eve, the Lavalin scandal cast its shadow in an unexpected manner. Acting on an application filed by an advocate, a judicial magistrate directed the police to register a case against Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Pinarayi Vijayan in connection with the reported disappearance of an official file relating to the Lavalin deal.

As soon as polling was over, the police initiated action on the sensitive matters which it had soft-pedalled so far. A team headed by the police commissioner of Kochi began investigation of the allegations against Sufia Ma'dani. It is also expected to re-investigate the Kalamassery bus burning case.

At Thiruvananthapuram, the police registered a case in connection with the disappearance of the Lavalin file. Among the accused are Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Pinarayi Vijayan. The charges against them include theft, destruction of evidence and conspiracy.

Pinarayi Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan figure in the case by virtue of the positions they held when the State Electricity Board signed the Lavalin deal. Vijayan was Power Minister at the time and Balakrishnan was a member of the Electricity Board.

There is room to doubt if the state police can be relied upon to conduct a credible investigation when the Home Minister himself is an accused. It is likely that at some stage the court will be called be examine this matter.

The state is now witnessing some political fall-out of the elections. Offices of the Janata Dal (Secular) have been attacked at several places.

A constituent of the LDF, the Janata Dal (S) had withdrawn its nominee from the cabinet in protest after the CPI-M took away its Kozhikode seat. It also asked its cadres to work for the defeat of LDF candidates.

Observers believe the attacks on the party's offices were in retaliation for the hostility it showed during the elections. At least two of the five JD (S) legislators had broken with the state leadership and stood by the LDF.

Pinarayi Vijayan has indicated that one of them may be rewarded with a minister's post. This may be part of a strategy to wean away JD (S) legislators who are willing to desert state party president MP Veerendrakumar.

There is speculation that Congress (S) leader Ramachandran Kadannapalli may also be inducted into the cabinet. The party, which has only one member in the Assembly, was not given representation when the LDF ministry was constituted. Re-thinking on the subject is indicative of a desire to salvage the LDF which came under severe strain during the elections.

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