Minister’s resignation in Kerala

P. Sreekumaran

Kerala has heaved a collective sigh of relief with the resignation of controversial minister Thomas Chandy at long last amid high drama and after much humming and hawing, and fretting and fuming.
The political drama that preceded the resignation of Chandy had all the ingredients that go into the making of a Bollywood potboiler: suspense, theatrics, confrontation, retreat and a climax.
The Minister, who exhibited a mulishly headstrong attitude till the very end, threw in the towel only after the Communist Party of India (CPI) toughened its stance by boycotting a meeting on the ground that it would not attend the meeting where Thomas Chandy is present.
The pressure tactics worked and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had no option but to suggest that the minister put in his papers without further loss of time.
True, the sordid episode is over. But the trail of bitterness it has left in its wake will take a long time to vanish.
Understandably, the Chief Minister has taken exception to the CPI’s boycott decision. It was an extraordinary happening, the CM said, adding that the ‘unpleasant surprise’ the CPI sprang on the CM was something unheard of in the annals of Kerala’s political history.
The CPI has countered his contention with its own counter-narrative. The party admitted that it was an extraordinary decision, which was warranted by the extraordinary circumstances that necessitated it.
There is no denying that the CPI was fully justified in taking the decision it did. The party had, right from the beginning, taken the stand that Thomas Chandy must be shown the door in view of the adverse report submitted by the Alappuzha district collector on his alleged encroachment of government land and violation of the rule of the law in the construction of the Lake Palace Resort owned by him.
But the CPI(M) and the CM chose to differ. They said it was only an interim report and a decision must await a final report. The final report was even more damaging. Then the CM and the CPI(M) delayed a decision seeking legal advice in the matter because of cases pending against Chandy in court. The Advocate General who gave the legal advice opined that Chandy had no option but to resign in view of the highly damaging report of the Collector. In the meantime, the minister moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the Collector’s report!
The last straw came when the Court dismissed the petition, noting that a Cabinet Minister moving a court against the State Government of which he is a part, militates against the constitutional principle of collective responsibility.
The division bench of the court strongly criticized the Minister saying that he cannot approach the court as a minister and a common man at the same time. He must come out of the ivory tower and face the law as an ordinary citizen. It also means that the minister had lost trust in the government and the Chief Minister.
The severe strictures passed by the court proved the last straw, leading to the exit of the minister who still tried to buy time on the specious plea that he and his party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) must consult the central leadership!    
It was then that the CPI ministers boycotted the cabinet meeting mounting pressure both on Chandy and the CM. The bold step has, undoubtedly, gone down well with the people and enhanced the political graph of the CPI.
Conversely, the vacillation shown by the CM has severely dented the image of both the CPI(M) and the CM. The shocking ineptitude that marked handling of the Chandy episode has exacerbated the tension between the CPI and the CPI(M).
Here, a word of caution is in order. Both the CPI and the CPI(M) must act promptly to stop the war of words which has ensued. A washing of the dirty linen in public would only help the Opposition which has started baying for the blood of the Government. The Government has lost all moral right to continue in office after the court’s observation on collective responsibility of the Cabinet, contended the Opposition parties.
The political soap, which threatens to unfold more episodes, contains lessons for all, especially the CPI(M),  to learn.  First and foremost: in politics, as in life, timely decisions are of paramount importance. The CM had several opportunities to secure the resignation of Thomas Chandy. He lost each one of them betraying in the process a shocking lack of political adroitness. He should have ousted Chandy the moment he filed a case against the LDF Government, citing the constitutional impropriety of it all. He did not do so. To compound the offence, he allowed Chandy to attend a meeting of the Cabinet against which he moved the court. This act amounted to condoning the Minister’s decision. This was what precipitated matters, forcing the CPI to take the ‘extraordinary’ step of boycotting the cabinet meeting. That was necessary to jolt the CM out of the sense of complacency which the CM had lulled himself into.
In hindsight, it must be said that the CM and the CPI(M) who tried their level best to deny CPI the credit on the exit of Thomas Chandy, ended up conceding full credit to the CPI! If only he had taken timely decisions, the strain in the CPI-CPI(M) relations could have been avoided. (IPA)

Wednesday, 22 November, 2017