Chandy pats himself after one year, critics fume (One year of Oommen Chandy)
Thiruvananthapuram, May 17 (IANS) After holding office for a year, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is patting himself on the back. But critics are not impressed.
With the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government set to mark its first anniversary Friday, Chandy seems to be riding an uncertain horse -- because of the nature of his coalition.
Chandy led the UDF to a narrow victory last year, getting 72 seats, just edging past the Marxist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) that bagged 68 seats in the 140-member assembly. Although he formed a government, the Congress managed just 38 seats, behind the 45 of its arch foe, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
Known for his down-to-earth style, Chandy started with a bang when he opened his office to the world through a round-the-clock web cast.
His "mass contact programme" in all 14 districts has been applauded.
One day, he went without food for more than 18 hours at a stretch as he immersed himself in sorting out the problems of the man on the street.
So what does he feel about the first anniversary?
"I am fully satisfied with the performance," Chandy told IANS.
"I am delighted I got the wholehearted support of my party, my coalition and even the opposition, who despite their political differences, extended their support," he added.
Chandy said he would now devote himself to infrastructure development.
"Infrastructure is the backbone for development. My government will now set high standards for achievements in this area.
"We are confident that the 'Emerging Kerala' campaign will provide the much-needed boost to this sector," said Chandy.
Chandy, however, faced a torrent of criticism when he decided to give another ministerial berth to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest member in the UDF.
The chief minister played down the episode. "In a democratic set-up, differences of opinion are bound to happen.
"But please tell me, can anyone point fingers at us?"
The CPI-M of course has a different point of view and is going hammer and tongs at the government ahead of an assembly by-election at Neyattinkara June 2.
"The government's days are numbered because of its anti-people policies," thundered Pinarayi Vijayan, the powerful CPI-M leader in the state.
Another CPI-M leader, A. Anandan, added that "all the good work done by our government (2006-11) has been undone by this government".
"The electricity charges are going to go up. Power cuts have already started. Kerosene, freely available in our time, has become out of reach for the common man because of a cut in supply by the central government.
"Prices of essential items are rising. I do not know what this government is doing."
However, the murder of a former Marxist firebrand in Kozhikode, blamed on CPI-M workers, has led to another showdown between the CPI-M's Vijayan and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan.
The murder has become Kerala's talking point, the CPI-M's discomfiture providing some relief to Chandy.
Gala first anniversary celebrations will take place only after the by-election. In the meantime, Chandy's ministers are busy preparing their own score cards -- of what they achieved in one year.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
©Indo-Asian News Service