On Monday evening, a no-confidence motion against the Pinarayi Vijayan government was defeated in the Kerala Assembly 87-40.
The no-confidence motion had been moved by opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) against the CPM-led government of Vijayan over a barrage of allegations, chiefly the purported involvement of the chief minister’s office in the gold smuggling racket busted at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in July.
EXPLAINED | The story of no-confidence
Monday marked the first time in 15 years that a no-confidence motion was moved by an opposition against an elected government in Kerala. The last time it was moved was in 2005 when CPM leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan cited corruption allegations against then-Congress government of Oommen Chandy. The motion was however defeated then.
This time, the UDF, through the no-confidence motion, intended to pile political pressure on the Vijayan government by raising a host of issues, such as the gold smuggling racket, allegations of corruption in the state government’s flagship housing scheme ‘Life Mission’ and the deteriorating Covid-19 crisis in the state. The controversy over the state government’s engagement of a corporate law firm for legal advice about the bidding of Thiruvananthapuram’s airport privatisation move in which a family member of Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani is a partner was among the Opposition’s grievances.
The case of smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage, currently being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), is particularly relevant for the Opposition as its ramifications have reached the doorstep of the chief minister’s office.
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M Sivasankar, the former principal secretary to Vijayan and the top bureaucrat in his office, was suspended from service last month over his alleged close ties to Swapna Suresh, the prime accused in the case. The Opposition have persistently claimed that the buck does not stop at Sivasankar and that the chief minister must be investigated too. While Sivasankar has been questioned multiple times by the Customs department and the NIA, he has neither been arrested nor arraigned as an accused in the case.
With political protests and agitations on the streets suspended by the Kerala High Court till August 31 in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the no-confidence motion presented the Opposition with the opportunity to make direct verbal attacks on the chief minister and the government. It also came just two months ahead of the crucial local body elections, widely seen as a precursor to the Assembly elections in May, 2021.
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