Citing Covid protocol, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has kept away from physical campaigning and has confined himself to virtual addresses during meetings for local body polls — reckoned as a referendum on the CPI(M)-led government in the state.
The absence of Vijayan has become conspicuous as his own Cabinet colleagues, including those who had earlier tested positive for Covid-19, are touring the state and several Opposition leaders are directly meeting voters.
While the ruling party has cited Covid protocol, the Opposition has pointed to recent scandals behind the leader being confined to virtual mode.
Vijayan, who has been the face of the LDF government for the last four-and-a-half years, had led the CPI(M) campaign in the last Lok Sabha polls and that election had marked his taking over the mantle of electioneering from party veteran V S Achuthanandan.
“There is a direction from the Election Commission that more than 100 persons should not participate in any events connected with campaigning. In the programmes of the Chief Minister, since more than 100 would gather, that would lead to violation… The Chief Minister will address the voters through virtual events, which would have larger reach than a public event,’’ senior CPI(M) leader and the party’s Kannur secretary M V Jayarajan said.
However, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said Vijayan “ran away from electioneering” due to recent scandals.
“The party has sensed the severe drubbing awaiting the LDF in the elections. Defeat is sure and hence the Chief Minister has decided to avoid public meetings as part of campaigning.”
Also absent in the local body campaigning in the CPI(M) is Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who last month stepped down as the party’s state secretary citing “health issues”. Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh has been arrested in a drug and money laundering case.
The LDF government is also facing heavy criticism from the Opposition over the arrest of Vijayan’s former principal secretary in the gold smuggling case. Besides, ED has issued summons to Vijayan’s additional private secretary C M Raveendran in the money laundering case related to the smuggling.
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