A year Chandy would like to forget

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 29 (IANS) Even though 2011 turned out a good year for Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, 2012 is one he would rather forget.

Sworn in on May 18, 2011, the chief minister earned high praise for the manner in which he set about his work. He had only a slender margin of four seats in the 140-member Kerala assembly but that did not appear to impede his functioning.

At the end of 2011, Chandy was hailed for the first 100 days in office; he had held many people-contact programmes and on one occasion, was on his feet for more than 19 hours at a stretch.

The year 2012, however, began with political turmoil. The Congress-led United Democratic Front was on a weak wicket after the second-biggest ally in the coalition, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), after a round of tough bargaining, got a fifth cabinet post. This ruffled many feathers in the majority community, the Hindu Nair and Ezhava caste groups.

Even though Chandy was reputed to be in the clutches of the IUML, he won two assembly by-elections. There were, however, issues that surfaced in his own Congress party, with party legislators going hammer and tongs against policies adopted by the government in relation to environment and forests.

Chandy was left gasping with so much in-house criticism coming his way.

As if that was not enough, Chandy was forced to deal with frequent hikes in prices of petroleum products. Each time a new hike came, Chandy was faced with all-round flak, even though he tried to cushion the impact by forgoing sales tax on the increased amount.

Another time-consuming concern was the party's organisation revamp, which had been a long time in the coming. Many leaders looked for plum party posts and the discussions around the revamp were prolonged, lasting at least 15 months. Early this week, a jumbo list was declared, with a record four vice presidents, 21 general secretaries and 42 joint secretaries.

Chandy came under heavy attack, especially from the opposition CPI-M, after his government took a tough stance and arrested 76 people after the murder of former CPI-M leader T.P. Chandrasekharan. Many of those arrested were activists of the CPI-M. An old case was also re-opened after a public speech by CPI-M leader from Idukki, M.M.Mani, currently in jail.

The CPI-M again had a grouse against the chief minister over the arrest of T.V.

Rajesh, a CPI-M legislator, and former legislator and veteran leader P.

Jayarajan, in another murder case. Both are now out on bail.

But despite leaving the CPI-M on the defensive, Chandy's initiative in staging the Emerging Kerala investor meet came under severe attack not only from the Left opposition but also from his own party and a section of the allies for the hasty manner in which certain projects were mounted.

One case that Chandy handled rather well in 2012 was that of the Italian marines, when two of them were arrested for shooting two Indian fishermen dead off the Kerala coast, taking them for pirates.

Last week, however, Chandy faced flak after the centre assented to a relaxation in the bail conditions of the Italians, allowing them to fly home for Christmas.

Now, if the two fail to return by Jan 10 and stand trial in Kerala as agreed, Chandy will have to face the music.

Chandy, however, is confident that the New Year will bring good news as there are major infrastructure projects like the proposed Vizhinjam port, the Kochi Smart City IT project, Kannur airport, two mono-rail projects and the first high-speed rail corridor in the country on the anvil for the state.

If these really get going, Chandy could have the last laugh.

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