After Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, it is Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s turn to face abuse of office allegations. The CPM government in Kerala has entered a testing phase with the prime accused in the gold smuggling scandal Swapna Suresh attempting to link chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and those close to him with the racket. Only two weeks ago the government was sitting pretty after celebrating the first anniversary of its second term in office.
Interestingly, Vijayan’s predecessor Oommen Chandy was in a similar situation nearly a decade ago. Chandy had faced allegations of close ties with a fly-by-night solar panel firm that had cheated several people. The fallout from that scandal had severely undermined Congress in Kerala. It remains to be seen how CPM will weather this latest storm. The gold smuggling case which was uncovered in 2020 had no impact on CPM’s electoral performance in the 2021 assembly elections.
But the popularity that Vijayan enjoyed last year, which led to the unprecedented second successive term, has eroded quite a bit over the last year. A poorly conceived big ticket project to link Kerala from north to south by a separate high-speed rail corridor has run into stiff opposition with a sizeable section questioning its utility. The publicity campaign over Kerala managing Covid better than other states has fallen flat. The state economy is also down in the dumps.
Congress, wrecked by last year’s defeat, has a new leadership and is showing signs of a revival. This was evident in the magnitude of the defeat CPM sustained in a bypoll last week that the ruling party had unnecessarily turned into a referendum on its own performance. Reports suggesting that central agencies will renew their attention on the gold smuggling case will pose fresh trouble for Vijayan, especially if he is summoned for questioning. Has the brief lull in Kerala politics ended, where opposition parties fumbled to counter the personality cult built around Pinarayi Vijayan?
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