The no-confidence motion against the Pinarayi Vijayan government was defeated 87-40 in the Kerala Assembly on Monday. The Assembly has been adjourned sine-die.
CM Vijayan spoke for a record 3 hours 45 minutes while replying to the trust motion. Two members of the Jose faction of Kerala Congress (M), technically a part of the Opposition UDF, abstained from the debate and the vote.
Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, instead of an electronic vote, the members were asked to stand depending on whether they supported or opposed the motion. While 40 members in the 140-seat Assembly supported the motion, 87 of them opposed it. The ruling LDF has 90 members in the Assembly and it’s victory was a foregone conclusion.
EXPLAINED | The story of no-confidence
The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) had moved the no-confidence motion against the CPM-led government in Kerala Monday, primarily over the gold smuggling case in which a former top bureaucrat in the chief minister’s office is being investigated for his alleged links to the smuggling racket.
The motion, moved by senior Congress leader VD Satheeshan, was backed by UDF partners like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the PJ Joseph faction of the Kerala Congress (M).
Apart from the smuggling racket, the UDF also brought to the centre-stage of the proceedings in the Kerala Assembly the alleged corruption in the government’s flagship housing project ‘Life Mission’ and the administration’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. The Centre had earlier decided to lease the airport to Adani Group for a period of 10 years, which was opposed by the Congress and the CPI(M).
Presenting the no-confidence motion in the Assembly, Satheeshan said, “On March 4, when I spoke in the Assembly about the issue of gold smuggling and the tax evasion amounting to thousands of crores, I had told the chief minister, ‘you are the state’s home minister too, along with gold smuggling, there is an underworld racket growing in the state, you must pay attention to it.’ But at that time, I never thought the chief minister’s office would become the headquarters of a gold smuggling racket.”
“To provide the cover for this racket, the accused in this case is offered a job through the back-door in the government’s ‘Space Park’ project at a salary of Rs 1.17 lakh. The government spent Rs 2.7 lakh for two agencies that hired her. When the chief minister, who also holds the IT Department portfolio, says that he didn’t know about her hiring, should we believe him? The gold smuggling racket hijacked the chief minister’s office,” he added, referring to Swapna Suresh, one of the prime accused in the case.
The debate over the no-confidence motion turned turbulent at regular intervals as members on the treasury and Opposition benches launched personal attacks on each other and engaged in diatribe.
Slamming higher education minister KT Jaleel, IUML MLA KM Shaji said the former is the first minister to spread the word of the Quran through smuggling. Jaleel is under the scanner of the Customs department for alleged Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) violation for receiving food kits and copies of the Quran from the UAE Consulate during the holy month of Ramzan.
Shaji said in the Assembly, “The copies of the Holy Quran are being given to people in Edappal. If you walk a bit from Edappal, you will find the CH Press, which prints copies of the Quran and is delivered across the world. Across the streets of Kerala, there are thousands of kids who can chant the Quran without missing a line. There are religious institutions which have taught them. There are different ways of spreading the word of the Quran. But this is the first government which is trying to spread the word of the Quran through smuggling. The minister said he’s willing to return the copies of the Quran, implying you are not going to do the same with the gold smuggled in.”
Responding to the UDF on the allegations of corruption, A Pradeepkumar, CPM MLA, said, “You are the one to talk about corruption. Just as oxygen is important for human life, there is no UDF without corruption. Your history makes it clear. In your five-year administration, how many vigilance cases have been withdrawn against corruption?”
MV Sreyams Kumar wins Rajya Sabha seat
The special Assembly session also saw voting for the lone Rajya Sabha seat that fell vacant after the death of MP Veerendra Kumar of the Loktantrik Janata Dal, an ally of the CPM. Kumar’s son MV Sreyams Kumar, nominated by the CPM-led LDF, won. The UDF had put forward the name of Lal Varghese Kalpakavadi, the chief of the Congress farmers’ unit, but the LDF enjoys a majority in the Assembly.