Monday, Nov 03, 2003
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By K. M. Tampi
The first was in 1977. The combination led by the Congress won 111 of the 140 Assembly seats. It was for the first time that the century mark was being crossed. The combination was led by K. Karunakaran and a team led by him soon assumed office. But he had to step down within exactly a month over some adverse remarks made against him by the High Court in an emergency excess related case which has come to be known as the Rajan case. A. K. Antony who was then not an MLA was coaxed to take over the reins of the State following that.
As Mr. Antony was a newcomer unaware of the intricacies of power, good administration was the first casualty. The situation was compounded by his habit of sitting on files and basing decisions on the question of how they would affect his image than on how they would benefit the people and the State. As for stability, it became a word writ on water, when Mr. Antony quit in a huff within a year-and-a-half over the party's decision to field Indira Gandhi in the Chikkamagalur by-election. The mantle fell on the CPI leader, P. K. Vasudevan Nair, who was then the senior most person in the Cabinet. Through his action which was widely believed to be impetuous, Mr. Antony gave the leadership of the ruling combination to the CPI on a silver platter so to say. Mr. Nair was a mature and mellow leader though not of the calibre of C.Achutha Menon and it was only natural for the people to expect a no-nonsense if not brilliant governance from the team led by him. But within less than a year he too resigned in order to pave the way for the unity of left and democratic forces. Even though a Ministry headed by the Indian Union Muslim League leader, C. H. Mohammed Koya, assumed office soon after that, it could not stay in office for even two months.
The same hopes of stability and strong administration were revived when the UDF touched the century mark for the second time in the electoral history of the State in the last election held in May 2001. As Mr. Antony too had mellowed and matured considerably, the people had great expectations of the Ministry led by him. But the Congress has botched up the situation once again.
The second popular belief dispelled by Kerala politics is the one about age and experience mellowing a person. But the octogenarian, Mr. Karunakaran has cocked a snook at this beautiful theory by showing that even at eighty plus you can hate a person with all the venom in your system. And the crime which Mr.Antony committed for becoming the object of this rare hatred was the acceptance of the Chief Ministership when a group in the Congress pulled Mr. Karunakaran down with the help of some other constituents of the UDF in 1995. Because of it Mr. Karunakaran has been placing stumbling blocks on the path of the Government right from its swearing-in and will in all probability continue to do so till its last day in office even if the present crisis is resolved somehow.
It is said that age and experience can give a touch of pragmatism to any thinker. But Mr. Antony has shown that a basically contemplative and inward looking person like him could never become a man of action. Any other person would have used the golden majority he got in the last election to neutralise the Karunakaran factor which has been simmering for the last eight years if not pluck his sting out altogether.
His failure to do so is responsible for taking the situation to its present cliff-hanging suspense.
In the past, Kerala used to be sarcastically referred to as a State under a long and indefinite period of President's rule with short spells under elected Governments because of the instability of successive Governments. It was the Karunakaran Government of 1982 which outlived that notoriety. The Kerala model is believed to have come of age after that and gained respectability with its replication at the Centre. Now that belief too is under threat.
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