THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is a double delight for Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has successfully blunted the edge of a campaign of calumny against him and his government.
In a major morale-booster to the LDF Government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, the Lokayukta has given a clean chit to the Chief Minister and 18 members of his previous Cabinet in a case related to the alleged misuse of Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF). A full bench of the Lokayukta ruled that there was no evidence of either corruption or nepotism in the Cabinet decisions to sanction Rs 25 lakh to deceased Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Uzhavoor Vijayan, Rs nine lakh assistance to late MLA KK Ramachandran Nair’s relatives and Rs 20-lakh aid to the family of a police official killed in an accident. There was no substantial ground to prove that the decisions were taken due to political considerations. Justice Cyriac Joseph, however, said though the Cabinet was competent to take the decisions, the process left much to be desired.
In their order, Justice Babu Mathew P Joseph said Rule 19 of the Rules of Business of the Government empowers the CM to give permission to consider matters as out of agenda items. On whether the decisions taken by a Cabinet can be subjected to investigation under the Lokayukta Act, Justice Cyriac Joseph said the complaint was maintainable and can be probed. However, the Upa Lokayukta disagreed. Justice Harun Ul Rashid noted that a decision taken by the Council of Ministers, a constitutional body, stands outside the purview of the Act. Justice Babu Mathew P Joseph agreed.
Petitioner RS Sasikumar, who was unhappy about the verdict, signalled his intent to move the High Court against the Lokayukta’s verdict. Sasikumar was on record that he was not surprised by the verdict. “It is a verdict clearly influenced by the Government.”
The Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) termed the verdict as biased, adding that it could lead to a situation wherein the CMDRF funds can be given to anyone the Government likes. Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan said the verdict was no surprise as it has come from a person who once called the petitioner a rabid dog.
In another significant development, the Chief Minister seems to have succeeded in getting the Congress MPs to raise, in Parliament, the Union Government’s biased attitude to Kerala on various issues. In an online meeting with MPs from Kerala, the Chief Minister requested them to highlight various issues, especially the financial crisis, weakening the State, during the upcoming Parliament session.
It was decided to raise, in Parliament in the coming winter session , issues pertaining to the removal of revenue subsidy due to the State, cancellation of GST compensation and non-payment of arrears of compensation. The meeting also discussed the urgent need for withdrawing its move to reduce the borrowing limits of the State. Another unanimous decision was to meet the Union ministers concerned to raise the credit limit of Kerala as per the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission.
The meeting also decided to organize protests against the Union Government’s neglect by bringing together all the States which are facing discrimination. The latest move of the Union Government to introduce a new condition for the distribution of grants approved by the Finance Commission for local bodies was condemned in an unreserved manner.
The two positive developments have come as big relief to the embattled Pinarayi Government. By deciding to raise issues of central neglect of Kerala in Parliament, the UDF has sought to make amends for their earlier refusal even to sign a memorandum detailing Kerala’s problems and to protest against the Union Government’s biased attitude to the State. (IPA Service)