Kerala government on back foot ahead of assembly session

Thiruvananthapuram, June 9 (IANS) The monsoon session of the Kerala assembly, set to begin Monday, could see the Oommen Chandy government on the back foot, as differences rage within the party over the induction of state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala into the cabinet.

For the past nearly three weeks, this has been the most contentious issue, and speculation is rife that Chennithala would be made either deputy chief minister or allotted the vaunted home portfolio.

On Saturday, strict instructions were issued by the party command, gagging Congress leaders from speaking on this issue to the media, and assuring the state party leadership that the matter would be resolved.

Chandy is also expected to come under fire from the Left opposition, as the session begins just as a fever rages in the state, with more than a million people sick. Hospitals have been unable to admit more patients, as all beds are taken.

"We have begun evening out-patient departments in the state-run medical colleges, besides increasing the number of beds in the general wards to tackle the situation. Temporary medical professionals are being recruited and things are under control," said State Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar.

The Left opposition is also expected to slam the Congress-led United Democratic Front as its allies, Kerala Congress (Jacob), Janadhiyapathiya Samrekhshana Samithi, Communist Marxist Party and the Kerala Congress (Pillai) have all been publicly venting their ire over demands that the Chandy government has not heeded.

Chandy, however, appears confident: "Please tell me of one issue which the government has not been able to handle on time. In the last one year, we have worked on major infrastructure projects like Kochi Metro, that got underway on Friday; the Smart City Kochi project, set to begin in the coming weeks; mono-rail projects in two cities in the state will soon be cleared; and the Vizhinjam Port project also is getting ready. We have not sat idle, and nothing has affected governance," he said.

For the first time, the assembly would see even the initial announcement of the entry of the speaker being made in Malayalam by the marshals. The customary announcements were earlier made in English.

"We have begun the process of creating a Malayalam vocabulary which should be used during assembly proceedings," Speaker G. Karthikeyan said.

The session ends July 18.

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