Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday sought to shrug off Opposition criticism that he remained inaccessible to the public at the Navakerala Sadas venues as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Cabinet’s mammoth public outreach programme entered its third day in Kannur district on Monday.
Mr. Vijayan’s refutation came as a retort to Congress’s accusation that the LDF’s public outreach seemed elitist compared to late Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s mass contact programme in 2013.
The Congress alleged that Mr. Vijayan’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of Kerala’s electorate was limited to breakfast meetings and roundtable conferences with businesspersons and local notables.
Mr. Vijayan told reporters at Payyannur that “time constraints” restrained him from personally receiving and vetting petitions.
He said the government had streamlined the outreach by opening more help desks, including separate ones for senior citizens, differently-abled individuals and women, at the venues.
A right, not magnanimity
Industries Minister P. Rajeeve said the Navakerala Sadas sharply contrasted with the United Democratic Front (UDF)’s exercise. He said the UDF’s outreach saw hundreds queuing up in harsh hot weather for the ruling dispensation’s charity. In contrast, at Navakerala Sadas venues, citizens proudly exercised their right to State succour with self-respect. “State aid is a right and not any one person’s magnanimity,” he said.
In Kottayam, Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan drew a parallel between the Navakerala Sadas and royal durbars held by colonial rulers. He said only courtiers and royal retainers had access to the king. The public could only witness the kingly spectacle from afar. Mr. Vijayan appeared to live in the colonial times, he said.
When asked about an Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader sharing the dais with Mr. Vijayan in Kasaragod, Mr. Satheesan said the UDF would investigate the one-off incident. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] had tom-tommed the leader’s presence as proof of the bipartisan approval for the Cabinet’s outreach and evidence that the UDF’s high-profile boycott had thinned out.
CPI(M) central committee member A.K. Balan sought to wring political advantage out of the situation by claiming Congress’s boycott of the Sadas had widened the fissures in the Opposition alliance. “We have not invited the IUML to the LDF. But, it could not remain in partnership with the Congress for long. Several prominent UDF leaders would share the stage with Mr. Vijayan in Palakkad,” he said.