Modinomics: Kerala Seeks A Shift To The Right

    06-Apr-2021   
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"About LDF it can be said, Judas betrayed Lord Christ for a few pieces of silver.LDF has betrayed Kerala for a few pieces of gold"--Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, at Palakkad.
 
The above quote by PM Modi, captures the essence of how the LDF has betrayed God's own country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at Pathanamthitta a few days back,was also a landmark one,in the run-up to the Kerala polls on April 6,2021. Unleashing a two-pronged attack,the PM accused the LDF and the UDF of committing ‘seven deadly sins’. He listed out the sins as “false sense of pride and arrogance, greed for money, wrath towards people, jealousy towards each other, lust for power, dynasty politics and laziness in work”. Modi also referred to the LDF and UDF,as twins in terms of misgovernance, corruption, political violence, communalism, casteism, cronyism and nepotism.
 
Addressing the NDA’s election rally in Konni,the epicentre of the Sabarimala agitation,PM Modi flayed the LDF for its brutality on Ayyappa devotees during the Sabarimala agitation,with the crowd delirious with joy,when Modi chanted, ‘Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa’. “The devotees of Swami Ayyappa, who should have been greeted so warmly, were welcomed by LDF with lathis. The innocent devotees are not criminals. The LDF has done everything to portray Indian culture in poor light. Its lies would not go on any more. An imported and an internationally rejected ideology will no longer be allowed to trample over the culture of our land,” said,the PM.
 
“This is why Babasaheb Ambedkar questioned if Communism and free democracy can ever co-exist? Ambedkar said,Communism is like a forest fire that will burn and consume everything,” further, thundered the PM,during his poll rally.
 
Modi rightfully said that both the LDF and UDF suffer from “competitive corruption” and have formed alliances with communal, criminal and regressive elements of society.
 
Mounting an attack on Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran,the PM remarked that the Minster who was supposed to help temples,was actually one of the masterminds behind showering of lathis on devotees in Sabariamla.That is not all.Even the career of a patriotic scientist like Nambi Narayanan was destroyed as a result of factional politics of the Congress. On the other hand, Metroman E Sreedharan, who recently joined the BJP,is emerging as an inspiration for many professionals. People of Kerala want NDA’s delivery centric approach and not the delay centric approach of LDF and UDF. The BJP is also expected to pass a law against "Love Jihad",if it comes to power in Kerala, given the rising cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls,under the pretext of marriage.
 
Needless to add here that the breathtakingly beautiful state of Kerala,is separated from the rest of India by the Western Ghats in the East and the Arabian Sea in the West. Kerala has a Coastline of 589.5 kilometers, which forms 10% of India's total coastline. Despite being bestowed with nature's bounty, Kerala,for the past many years,has been in the news for all the wrong reasons,thanks to the debilitating politics of the Leftist party,the Left Democratic Front (LDF).The "Rebuild Kerala" initiative following the 2018 floods was nothing but hype and nothing happened, thereafter. The Pinarayi Vijayan government would go down as the one which has taken Kerala backwards in all respects,with corruption being the mainstay of the LDF. "Rebuild Kerala"projects ended up as mere discussions in five star hotels at fancy seminars. Most of the flood rehabilitation houses were constructed by charity organisations. Many farmers are yet to receive financial help. Rs 2,120 crore obtained by Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF), is yet to be spent,fully. Instalments of loans from World Bank for "Rebuild Kerala" were spent on salaries and pensions of government staff,instead of being deployed for reconstruction work.Repeated demands by the BJP that the LDF government release a white paper on the new industrial projects that have been launched during its tenure,have gone unheeded.The hard truth is,under the CPI(M) led LDF rule,Kerala not only witnessed industrial stagnation but also saw NRI entrepreneurial activity taking a backseat,with some even committing suicide, due to harassment and red tape,by the LDF.
 
The sad irony is that,the ruling LDF,which rode to power highlighting the earlier United Democratic Front (UDF) governments's extravagance and corruption, adopted the same path,once it assumed power.No one has forgotten Congress/UDF's Oomen Chandy,or his embarrassing role in the solar scam.Unfortunately,the LDF regime took a leaf from the UDF's book and indulged in large-scale extravagance by according cabinet rank to the chief whip and by creating a number of unnecessary posts,in the last five years.The vigilance department is a mere paper tiger,with the real culprits of the Palarivattom flyover scam,for example,going scot-free,due to patronage by the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government.The Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) has also reportedly become a symbol of lethargy,incompetence and rampant corruption.
 
The LDF regime of Pinarayi Vijayan has been following the footsteps of TMC's Mamata Banerjee,by promptly re-branding and claiming as its own,some of the most successful schemes of the Modi government. For instance,it was the Narendra Modi government which took the initiative to complete the Kollam and Alappuzha bypass, the work of which was stalled by both LDF and UDF governments for well over 45 long years.Kerala has received central assistance like never before,after the Narendra Modi government took charge at the centre. It was the centre that gave 42% of the tax share to the states under the 14th Finance Commission and then 41%, under the 15th Finance Commission,with Kerala being amongst the top beneficiaries,in terms of devolution of money to states. The MGNREGS share to Kerala was allocated in advance,by the Modi government. For the first time, the state was provided Rs 4,000 crore to tide over its fiscal deficit. The intervention of the centre in helping Kerala to increase its borrowing under the ways and means advances (WMA) limit, also proved beneficial for the state.
 
The LDF government, on the other hand, has tried to torpedo many central projects that were launched for the common man. The LDF fiercely opposed the PM Jan Dhan Yojana. The Left also tried to scuttle projects like the Kisan Samman Nidhi and Ujjwal Yojana that provided free LPG connection to the poor. The LDF government also diverted funds provided by the centre in the wake of the Ockhi cyclone and the 2018 floods,with more than Rs 2000 crore that was provided,being wasted or misused.
 
The latest developments in the murky Kerala gold smuggling case,which led to the arrest of M. Sivasankar,former principal secretary to the Kerala CM,Pinarayi Vijayan,in October 2020,is a glaring indictment of how rules were flouted,to abet corruption in high places.Few days back,the Enforcement Directorate moved the Kerala court,seeking a CBI probe into the case registered by the Kerala Crime Branch against the ED.What a travesty of justice that rather than probing the nefarious nexus between gold smugglers, politicians of LDF and their prized bureaucrats, the Kerala Crime branch had the audacity to file a case against the ED,which is only doing its job of unravelling the truth,in the multi crore gold scam,case.
 
The ED has detailed admissions of statements made by key accused in the gold scam,including Swapna Suresh. Interestingly, Swapna has now accused the Kerala speaker of meeting with a Sharjah leader in Dubai, to obtain free land for an institution which the speaker wanted to open. The Kerala gold smuggling case is related to the seizure of over 30 kg of gold from a diplomatic cargo at the Thiruvananthapuram airport in July,2020. The gold was found in the diplomatic cargo,addressed to the UAE Consulate General's Office in Thiruvananthapuram.And this is precisely what made the seizure sensational,because a diplomatic cargo enjoys immunity from routine examination by the customs department officials at airports.Swapna Prabha Suresh,aka Swapna Mohammed, who is a resident of Dubai and was an employee of the Consulate for around three years before being sacked in 2019,reportedly had unfettered access to CM Pinarayi Vijayan's office. M. Sivasankar was not only the Kerala CM's principal secretary,but also the head of the Kerala State Information Technology Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL). Probe by NIA and the ED later found that Sivasankar had recommended Swapna for a position with the KSITIL,which required the applicant to be a graduate. Though Swapna was not a graduate and hence not eligible,CM Vijayan's office,allegedly gave the approval for Swapna's recruitment at KSITIL,in a clear case of political harakiri.
 
Chief Minister Vijayan has very conveniently dismissed the charges of corruption against his government, saying, “The Opposition is trying to foist the doings of officials on the government.” The moot question is,how can CM Vijayan claim the moral high ground when his closest confidante and former principal secretary is involved in the gold scam?How is it possible that Sivasankar was engaging in unbridled corruption,without CM Vijayan's knowledge and blessings?Even if one hypothetically assumes,the CM was unaware of what officials in his government were up to,does that not show how incompetent Vijayan is?How can a multi crore scam happen,right under the CM's nose,with the CM supposedly having no clue about it?
 
CM Pinarayi Vijayan's irresponsible behaviour was evident in 2018,when he deserted the people of his state and went to the USA.And this,when more than 400 people died during the Kerala floods and lakhs were rendered homeless. Vijayan learnt no lessons and in August 2019,when Kerala was ravaged by floods yet again,with the death toll crossing 93 and around 2.52 lakh people shunted and packed like sardines in 1,332 relief camps,Vijayan was once again missing in action.
 
Apart from the gold scam,the CBI has recently taken over the probe and registered a case for FERA violations,in a housing scheme for the poor, which is part of the Vijayan government’s flagship project,called the "Life Mission" project, being constructed with financial aid from Emirates Red Crescent.Emirates Red Crescent is the UAE affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.The CBI will probe the deal for the construction of a 140-apartment complex at Wadakkanchery in Thrissur district, signed between Red Crescent and Kerala-based UNITAC.
 
The scam involving "Life Mission" housing project is linked to the gold smuggling case.The key accused in the smuggling case, Swapna Suresh,has confessed to the ED and NIA that Rs 4.25 crore had been paid as commission in the housing project, and she also pocketed a part of the kickbacks. Kerala's Higher Education Minister, K T Jaleel,is also under the ambit of investigations,showcasing how CM Vijayan's government is steeped in widespread corruption.
A point worth noting here is that,since 1977, Kerala has always alternatively voted for two fronts,either the CPI(M)-led LDF or the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF),to the Kerala assembly.In the 1977 Kerala Assembly election,the polls after the Emergency and the first election after the delimitation where the number of Legislative seats increased from 133 to 140,the United Front secured a majority. The front was led by the Indian National Congress (INC) and Communist Party of India (CPI), and K Karunakaran became the Chief Minister.
 
The subsequent election, the sixth Kerala Assembly election in 1980,however,set the stage for the LDF and UDF,which were formed from the constituent parties of the United Front. In the 1980 election, the LDF formed the government in Kerala under the leadership of EK Nayanar.While the spellbindingly beautiful state of Kerala, known all over the world for its lush landscapes, sun-drenched beaches and idyllic backwaters, has been a subject of admiration for being one of the most literate states in India,in recent times,the once socially advanced state has become the victim of radicalisation by communal,anti national outfits like the popular front of India (PFI), which has spread its tentacles,all over Kerala. Kerala was once revered,as its social indicators were on par with the developed world. But thanks to the rabid,hate filled politics of the LDF and the UDF,large swathes of the state have been thrown into abject poverty,with a large chunk of the rural and tribal population,living well below the poverty line.Barring tourism,industrialisation is a far cry,within Kerala. Reported rape of a nun in Kerala,by Bishop Franco Mulakkal, shows the true underbelly of Kerala's lop sided social structure,where despite a favourable gender ratio,most people ignored this horrific crime,with even the state's major political parties like the LDF and UDF,turning a blind eye,to the ghastly rape of a nun.
 
Academicians believe that,Kerala's early trading connections with the West,with the Portuguese arriving here in the 15th Century, followed by the Dutch and then the British and,a long history of social reforms initiated by the missionaries and the kings of two princely states that were later integrated to create Kerala,helped the state,initially. Thanks to pioneering land reforms initiated in the late 1950s, the levels of rural poverty here were the lowest in India. Yet, today, Kerala is a struggling economy, almost entirely dependent on tourism and remittances sent back by over two million of its people who live and work abroad, mostly in the Gulf. Decades of abysmally poor governance by the CPI(M) led LDF and Congress led UDF,criminal neglect of industry, institutionalisation of corruption and a deteriorating law and order machinery,have completely debilitated Kerala's economy. Joblessness is rife due to the lack of a robust manufacturing base.More than 30 million people live in the densely populated state, a third of which is covered by forests and verdant coconut trees. Kottayam is called India's "land of letters,latex and lakes",as it alone accounts for over 15% of India's rubber production.Yet,due to lack of political will, Kerala's rubber plantations have never quite achieved the kind of prominence they deserved,with rubber production in the last seven years remaining stagnant at between 6.5-7.2 lakh tonnes,by and large.
 
Kottayam town is also famous as it is the gateway to pilgrim centres of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Kuruvilangad, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam, Erumeli, Manarcad, Aruvithura and Athirampuzha. The famous Vaikom Siva temple, associated with the legendary sage Parasurama, is just 40 km north of Kottayam town and is a typical example of Kerala temple architecture. So also are the temples of Perunna, Vazhappally and Thrikkodithanam near Changanassery. The temple at Ettumanoor about 12 km north of Kottayam is famous for the exquisite ancient murals and 'Ezharaponnana' or the 7½ elephants finished in gold.It is therefore a shame,that the Pinarayi Vijayan government has done absolutely nothing to put Kottayam,endowed with rich temple history,on the international tourist map.At the height of the Sabarimala agitation in 2019,CM Vijayan,ridiculed the sentiments of scores of Hindu devotees of Lord Ayyappa,leading to a chain of events that marred the traditions at the historic Sabarimala shrine,thereby hurting Hindu sentimnts.
 
More people in Kerala are taking their lives than anywhere else in India. Alcoholism is a dire social problem - the state has India's highest per capita alcohol consumption.Due to decades of abuse of power by the LDF and UDF,the state has little money to fund health care and education,leading to an explosion of expensive, private hospitals, schools and colleges, which the poor cannot afford.Road networks are extensive, but the state has few highways. Kerala lives off remittances from the Middle East and it lacks a manufacturing base.Keltron,one of the first and largest electronic undertakings in the state sector in Kerala,had been pushed to the throes of bankruptcy by rent seeking politicians,before it eventually recovered. Kerala's biggest advantage,a high literacy rate,has become a strange liability,as the vast majority of educated unemployed go abroad for work.Can Kerala afford to become another Cuba?No! And for that,the electorate must choose wisely and shun both the LDF and the UDF.
 
Kerala is an over-politicised and "over-extended state". The argument goes that radical unions, bolstered by successive Communist governments, have acted as "pressure groups advancing particular vested interests".Also,decades of militant trade unionism led by the Communists has led to a poor work ethic and an "estrangement" from private investments - a condition similar to India's West Bengal,which was ruined for 34 years by Communists and then by a corrupt, TMC,subsequently.The Kerala model is grinding to a halt because the social and political groups having fulfilled their original agenda of filling their coffers,now have no development agenda to take to the people.
 
Clearly, Kerala needs a new contract between the state and its people to move ahead and reclaim it's lost glory. The inclusive politics of development,progress, modernity and corruption free governance that Prime Minister Narendra Modi epitomizes,is the elixir that Kerala desperately needs,at this stage.The argument that Kerala has a progressive social order is also turning out to be a big hoax,given that Kerala has consistently been reporting the most violent crimes against women as per NCRB data. Radicalisation by terror outfits like the PFI,which supposedly has links with ISIS,are turning Kerala into a hotbed of Hinduphobic violence and mayhem.
 
Speaking of violence,which is the DNA of Communism,the situation of unproductive and violent trade unionism,has infested the agricultural sector also,in Kerala. The agricultural labour unions are so strong that they are reluctant to work sincerely, and will not allow mechanization and automation in this field either. As a result, hundreds of thousands of hectares of cultivatable land are lying unutilised and agricultural production is suffering badly.Similarly, even the trading sectors are infested with unionism and lobbying is so deeply entrenched that the basic economic principle of demand-supply mechanism that dictates market prices,is not being allowed to work. Even when there is abundant supply of goods, these traders engage in black marketing and profiteering by creating artificial scarcity and keeping the prices up. So, it is the middle class who suffer the most in Kerala,while the trade unions backed by the Left,have a field day.
 
E Sreedharan, also known as the "Metro Man of India", joined BJP recently and is just the kind of leader Kerala needs.Speaking at a rally the 88 year old Sreedharan said,at Shangumugham-- "For the last 67 years, I was a government servant. Many people have asked me why I ventured into politics after these many years. For 67 years, I worked as part of many projects for this country.I am still energetic and want to utilise my energy for the state of Kerala. Whatever responsibility is given to me I will take it up with all courage and energy,".Sreedharan is known as Metroman because he constructed the first Metro in the country and the engineering marvel,the Konkan Railway, which connected southern India to the rest of the country,in a rapid manner.
 
In the final analysis,the hard truth is, God's own country has been ravaged for over four decades by successive LDF and UDF regimes,who have simply fattened their pockets and done precious little to improve the lot of Keralites,who are almost entirely dependent on overseas money orders,giving Kerala the unenviable term of "Money Order Economy".During the Covid pandemic,which adversely affected all nations globally, including the Middle East,the money orders stopped abruptly,as many people in the Gulf lost their jobs,bringing in turn,untold misery upon Kerala, which is grappling today with ballooning deficit,falling growth and rising joblessness,thanks to complete apathy by CM Pinarayi Vijayan,who did nothing for the people for the last five years.While India under PM Modi is being applauded worldwide for its outstanding handling of the Covid pandemic, Kerala is a textbook case of how shoddy leadership and gross mismanagement can cause untold damage.With a little over 2% of India's population,Kerala accounts for more than 8% of all Covid cases in India.Alongwith Maharashtra,Kerala also accounts for over 70% of all active Covid cases,reflecting poorly on the LDF.
 
In sharp contrast,Prime Minister Narendra Modi,has always treated Kerala favourably and fairly.Recently,the PM inaugurated a bevy of infrastructure projects in Kerala, including the 2,000-MW Pugalur-Thrissur high voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission corridor. This power transmission corridor would ensure the transfer of a large quantum of power from the national grid to the State and guarantee reliable access to electricity.Stating that “development is our aim, development is our religion,” Prime Minister Modi,also inaugurated, via videoconference, a 50-MW solar park in Kasaragod and a 75-mld (million litres a day) water treatment plant at Aruvikkara, Thiruvananthapuram and, launched the work on two Smart City Mission initiatives in the capital — the Rs 427 crore 37km Smart Road project and the Integrated Command and Control Centre, at the City Corporation. “The great Malayalam poet Kumaran Asan said, ‘I’m not asking your caste, sister, I ask for water. I’m thirsty’. Development and good governance do not know caste, creed, race, gender, religion or language. Development is for everyone,” PM,Narendra Modi,further,added.
 
The Pugalur-Thrissur line is Kerala’s first HVDC inter-connection with the national grid and the country’s first system to use the voltage source converter technology.
 
Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram had made significant progress under the Modi government's centrally sponsored Smart Cities Mission. Under the mission, 27 projects worth Rs 770 crore had been completed in the two cities, while 68 projects worth Rs 2,000 crore were in the pipeline.As many as 175 water supply projects worth Rs 1,100 crore were being taken up in Kerala under AMRUT,another central government scheme. The Modi government has been giving utmost importance to the blue economy. Development strategies targetting the fishermen community are based on “more credit, increased technology, top-quality infrastructure, and supportive government policies”,to ensure that India becomes a hub of seafood exports,with Kerala at the forefront.Clearly,Kerala deserves better.Both the LDF and the UDF failed the state and its people.It is time for Kerala to take the "Right" path.
 
Job for at least one member in a family, social welfare pension of Rs 3,500 a month, free housing and piped drinking water and power for the poor,are key highlights of the BJP manifesto.Five acres of land to deprived SC/ST families, free laptop for high school students, the promise of a hunger-free Kerala, six free cooking gas cylinders for BPL families, a monthly medical grant of Rs 5,000 to in-patients from below poverty line (BPL) households, travel concession for senior citizens and fair wages, are the other highlights.The BPL families would also receive medical assistance up to Rs 5 lakh under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. The NDA would open Jana Aushadhi centres in all panchayats. The manifesto also promised an AIIMS centre in Kerala and upgrading district hospitals and medical colleges in the State,to speciality and super-speciality centres.The NDA has promised to be a bulwark against the global Islamist threat of terrorism,besides vowing to free temple administration from political control and hand the institutions over to collectives of devotees. The manifesto harks back to the principles of “integral humanism” propounded by the much revered and noted,Hindu right-wing idealogue,Pandit Deenadayal Upadhyaya. In effect,the BJP has promised to transform panchayats to gram swaraj, moored to self-sufficiency in food production, housing, drinking water supply and hygiene. Namo food joints would serve breakfast (Rs 10), lunch (Rs 20) and dinner (Rs 10) in all panchayats.The NDA's manifesto has Modinomics written all over it,with a promise to enhance rural road, internet and power connectivity, electric crematoria and garbage disposal units in villages and rapid re-skilling of rural youth,to meet the demands of Kerala's economic fabric.
 
A six-lane highway linking Kaliakkavial in the south to Manjeswaram in the north would open up the State’s hinterlands for development. Motels would dot the freeway.
 
New airports in Idukki, Wayanad and Sabarimala, development of minor ports, a new road parallel to the Thamarassery Ghat in Wayanad, trams for urban centres and development of water transport,are other key election pledges by the BJP,besides ofcourse,revitalising Kerala's agriculture sector and making Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operations, financially viable. "The principle of communism is the enrichment of the idle at the expense of the provident; it is plunder legalized",said Mary Trimmer famously and her words ring true,in the case of all that has gone horribly wrong for Kerala,under the Leftist regime of the LDF. It is time for the people of Kerala to show Communists the door and embrace the growth oriented, inclusive politics of Prime Minister,Narendra Modi,for whom development is an abiding work ethic. The people of Kerala owe this to themselves,for a better future.
 
Sanju Verma is an Economist,National Spokesperson of the BJP and Bestselling Author of "Truth &Dare--The Modi Dynamic"