People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
KERALA UDF MANIFESTO
Harping on the Same Old Anti-People Policies
THE opposition in Kerala --- that is the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) --- has released its election manifesto which explicitly declares without any qualm of conscience that it would revert to its anti-people policies, if elected to power. It would go back to the earlier abkari policy to patronise the liquor barons, as against the LDF policy of handling the liquor business by government agencies such as the Supplyco, Beverages Corporation, etc. The UDF also promises to disband the cooperative societies which have taken over the toddy shops of Kerala. It was the LDF government that had buried the policy of auctioning out the toddy shops and liquor shops to liquor barons at very high sums, resulting in hooch tragedies and human massacres.
This policy of the Left Democratic Front government was hailed by everyone in Kerala as a masterly stroke to extinguish the influence the liquor barons have been exercising on Kerala politics. And it is this policy that the UDF has promised to abandon. It in fact wants to re-establish the liquor mafias power in Kerala politics.
The UDF also declares that arrack would be completely prohibited. The promise is meaningless as arrack had been prohibited by the Antony government in the first half of the 1990s and is no more on sale. In fact, it was this prohibition of arrack, without any substitute for it, that made hooch tragedies a routine in Kerala. The UDF is, however, singing the song of rehabilitating the arrack employees who had lost their livelihood in the last decade.
According to the UDF leaders, this manifesto of theirs was not for usual non-implementation, but "for implementation." In short, the UDF leadership has admitted without any sense of shame that their earlier manifestos were not meant for implementation. Perhaps they are right because now they do mean to save the liquor barons of the state.
On other things that seriously concern the state, the UDF has only very vague ideas. It said it would restructure the Kerala society that has been torn asunder by the LDF rule. It has nothing to say about the reservation policy in the state, about which the LDF explicitly stated in its manifesto that a quota of 10 per cent would be earmarked for the economically backward sections of the forward communities. The UDF will only request the central government to amend the constitution for granting concessions to the forward communities. This is no more than a bluff in view of the Supreme Courts order in this regard. It was on the basis of this order that the LDF promised a 10 per cent reservation to the economically backward sections of the forward communities.
The UDF manifesto has promised to appoint commissions to look into the dealings of liquor by the Beverages Corporation and into the feasibility of granting reservation to the economically backward sections of the forward communities.
The UDF claim is that it stands for the decentralisation of powers. But it does not like the way the Peoples Plan programme is being implemented. It would, if voted to power, disband the all the expert committees. The Planning Board will no longer give any advice to the panchayat bodies even in implementing the Peoples Plan. The UDF will implement the plan with emphasis on drinking water, housing, transport and agriculture, but without any expert committee and the Planning Boards advice.
The UDF also dreams of providing employment to 15 lakh employment seekers in the next five years, if voted to power of course. For this, it will launch a new Kudumba Samgamam programme in the fields of industry and agriculture. But the manifesto fails to explain what they mean by it.
The manifesto has no complaints against the policies of liberalisation and globalisation. It only promises to relieve the people of the troubles caused by these policies. It will also introduce certain loan relief schemes for the fishing workers.
A peculiar feature of the UDF manifesto is its promise to inactivate the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau. If the UDF is voted to power, the bureau will no longer have the power to enquire into the department level corruption. Instead, the UDF will constitute a new state level Vigilance Commission. But why a new body? Nobody knows.
The UDF laments that primary education is below standard in Kerala due to the new education scheme of the LDF government. Therefore, the UDF will reconstitute primary education on a "scientific basis." The UDF will sanction self-reliant information technology colleges in the state, of course with strict regulations. The UDF is ready to sanction colleges in the private sector for medicine, engineering and paramedical subjects. The manifesto dreams of making Kerala an IT destination. A new ministry will be established for the growth of the IT sector. (Yes, that means one more minister. Who he or she will be, only God knows! What they have in mind is only that, if at all people by error elect them, some one can become even an IT ambassador and travel the length and breadth of the world in the name of IT.) The UDF will establish cyber cities and cyber villages in the state.
The UDF, which had disbanded the fair price shops in the state and formed the public distribution centres in its stead, promises to strengthen the ration system in Kerala. It will also establish a Kalagramam on the model of Cholagramam in Tamil Nadu. The UDF will utilise the Ayurveda, spa, etc, to strengthen the possibilities of tourism in Kerala. Finally, the UDF will issue a white paper on the financial position of the state.
The UDF manifesto, to use the most moderate terms possible, promises an assault on the life of the people. It not only discredits the whole series of achievements made by the LDF government during the last five years, it also denies the benefits the people gained through the Peoples Plan programme. The strong anti-corruption machinery knit by the LDF is an anathema to the UDF and that is why it says that it will restructure the anti-corruption body. The meaning is quite obvious. Many leaders in the UDF are facing trials in corruption cases. One of them, Balakrishna Pillai, was even put behind the prison bars, of course for the sake of "the people of Kerala" as he put it. However, others simply know that the gentleman was jailed for the crime of stealing electricity, selling it to a private company and making money in lieu. That was what the court verdict said. The UDF manifesto is, in short, a shameless attempt to turn back the clock of history, the history of Kerala.