Thursday, November 30

Navakerala Sadas Updates

Navakerala Sadas Updates

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan sure knows the art of political googly. Whether he attacks opponents within his CPI(M) and in the Opposition, he strategically bowls them out. During the Covid pandemic, Vijayan had introduced free food kits for 8.8 million families in the state. Besides helping people during those dire times, it turned out to be great political foresight as the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) went on to retain power in the assembly polls in 2021 by winning 99 of the 140 assembly seats.

As the state gets set for Lok Sabha polls now, Vijayan is touring all the assembly constituencies with his entire cabinet to redress public grievances as well as hobnob with key personalities in each seat to gauge their opinion of his government.

The over-a-month-long Navakerala Sadas started from Manjeshwaram in Kasaragod district on November 18 and will end in Thiruvananthapuram on December 24. The tour has already covered the districts of Kasaragod and Kannur, and LDF leaders say it is gaining momentum.

A worried Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has dismissed Vijayan’s outreach as a “politically motivated extravaganza” at a time the state is passing through hard times and the government is “struggling to pay pension and arrears to retired state employees”. Congress leaders have pointed to the use of a ‘luxury bus’ loaded with amenities for the tour.

Vijayan blunted the attack by inviting the media to inspect the bus and called for factual reporting of its facilities. He alleged attempts to discredit his government even as it tried to build Kerala as the best governed state.

The LDF apparatus has been vigilant against moves to derail the Navakerala Sadas. On November 20, a group of Congress workers in Kannur, who had jumped in front of the chief minister’s bus with black flags, were allegedly roughed up by activists of the Left-affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India.

“Our tour is not an extravaganza. We have conducted four regional meetings to understand the gaps in government delivery and realised we must improve. Then, we scheduled this cabinet tour of all assembly constituencies. The public participation has been a great encouragement. If the Opposition is disheartened, it’s their problem since they are not interested in building a new Kerala but in ruining the state,” Vijayan told INDIA TODAY.

Vijayan informed that more than 25,000 grievance petitions had been received in the two districts covered so far. “When the people are with us, we don’t care about media ratings. Our government is not run by any PR agency,” he asserted.

Did the Congress and BJP then commit a blunder by targeting the Vijayan government for scheduling such a long tour. “The Opposition probably thought it could override Pinarayi Vijayan with the media’s support. Their statements went viral but flopped politically. Even leaders of some UDF constituents, particularly one from the Indian Union Muslim League, have been present in Vijayan’s tour meetings,” said a retired senior state bureaucrat.

The former official wondered if anyone could really have a problem with the government meeting people at their doorstep to address grievances. As prominent actor Santhosh Keezhattoor, who attended the Navakerala Sadas, said: “The chief minister immediately issued an order okaying my petition for raising the monthly pension for retired performing artistes to Rs 1,600 per month. While many are criticising the tour, I find it the right platform to raise grievances.”

Perhaps no government in the history of Kerala has organised a statewide cabinet tour for over a month to redress grievances. With Navakerala Sadas, Vijayan appears to be fulfilling two aims—gearing up his party and the government for the Lok Sabha polls and identifying gaps in administrative delivery to be in good stead for the assembly election in 2026. The LDF will hope to see it all pay in the general elections, where the Congress banks on winning all 20 parliamentary constituencies from Kerala to shore up its national prospects against the Narendra Modi-led BJP.