IN AN unusual departure from practice, Kerala Governor P Sathasivam Monday avoided certain portions from the text of his Budget address in the assembly that appeared to criticise the BJP-RSS and the Centre, including a line that the state had not seen any riots despite “plotting by certain communal outfits”.
The omission was criticised by the ruling CPI(M), which accused the Governor of trying to “appease” the central government, and the Opposition Congress, which said that the omitted part reflected its sentiment, too. The state BJP, however, said the Governor had used his “discretionary powers” and accused the CPI(M) of trying to “politicise” the address.
The transcript of the Governor’s speech, which was prepared by the state government according to established norms, read: “There has not been any instance of communal riot in our state despite the plotting by certain communal outfits.’’ But while addressing the assembly, Sathasivam skipped the portion, “despite the plotting by certain communal outfits”. Besides, the Governor completely avoided a statement in the prepared text that said: “We are also perturbed by the tendency of the Central Government to ignore the best traditions of cooperative federalism by bypassing the State Government and directly dealing with the district authorities and local bodies.’’
Sathasivam, however, adhered to the text while criticising the demonetisation policy and pointing out shortcomings in the implementation of GST. “Demonetisation and the introduction of GST in an inappropriate manner and time has resulted in serious deceleration in the economy and mounting unemployment,” he said. The Governor also stuck to the script in another portion that read: “During the past year, a month-long campaign was carried out across India, on certain flimsy ground by some communal outfits.”
The Governor’s omission comes against the background of a spate of political killings involving supporters of the BJP-RSS and CPI(M) in Kerala, particularly in Kannur, since the Left front came to power in May 2016. According to police, 15 political killings were recorded since then, including that of 11 BJP-RSS workers and four CPI(M) workers.
The killings have prompted the state government to accuse the BJP-RSS of trying to polarise the state on communal lines to expand its political base at a time when it is in power at the Centre.
The BJP-RSS, on the other hand, has accused the CPI(M) of targeting its workers to shore up its vote base. Last year, BJP president Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among a number of high-profile party leaders who attended a rally in Kerala to protest, what they claimed, was the targeted killing of their cadre.
Meanwhile, the Governor’s speech sought to assuage concerns among migrant workers, saying that they faced no threat anywhere in Kerala, despite “heinous efforts to spread fear among them, by circulating fake images in social media”. The Governor also pointed out to the health insurance scheme in place for migrant workers.
Later, asked by reporters about the Governor skipping portions of the prepared text, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was not aware of the incident. But the party’s state secretariat member Anathalavattam Anandan said: “The Governor might have tried to appease the central government, which appointed him. This is an unusual situation. But at the same time, he didn’t avoid the core issues stated in the text, which put the blame on BJP.”
Senior Congress MLA and former state chief K Muraleedharan said the Governor is bound to read the entire text ratified by the Cabinet. “The criticism against the central government is not just the sentiments of the ruling party but also that of the Opposition. The full text presented in the assembly would be considered as the document, irrespective of whether the Governor has avoided any portion or not,” he said.
BJP state general secretary K Surendran said: “The address should not be seen as an opportunity to unnecessarily attack and insult the central government. He, too, has some discretionary powers. There is nothing wrong in the Governor skipping certain portions in the text. The real issue is about why the government tried to politicise the governor’s address to the assembly.”