Pinarayi's three-step counter strategy to neutralise the burden of scams and charges

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. File photo: Manorama

Holding more press conferences, rather than shying away from them, seems the best way to silence criticism.

At Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's second press conference on Wednesday, done just a week after the September 19 media briefing that was the first in more than seven months, no questions were asked about the sensational corruption and nepotism scandals that has been troubling the second Pinarayi Ministry.

Once a scandal has been answered, even if in the least credible fashion, it looks like it can be shut, sealed and dispatched to oblivion.

Therefore, free of the personal attacks, the Chief Minister on Wednesday unveiled a three-pronged strategy to stand up to the battery of charges against his government.

One, fortify the government's image. Two, repeat the CPM line that the Enforcement Directorate's action in Karuvannur is a witch-hunt. And three, perhaps as a diversionary tactic, revive the TRP-boosting fight with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan that had long been kept dormant.

Step one: Learn from Chandy & Modi

The Chief Minister's first move will be to put on a show of his government's administrative capabilities. Accessibility, sensitivity and efficiency are the key attributes he wants to project.

Through zonal meetings, which have already begun, and the Nava Kerala Sadassu (gatherings), the Chief Minister has declared his intent to take his government right to the doorstep of the people, and address their issues virtually in their courtyard. Oommen Chandy's passing away had offered a lesson on the importance of one-to-one contact with the masses that even the CPM would not have missed.

Through zonal meetings, which have already begun, and the Nava Kerala Sadassu (gatherings), the Chief Minister has declared his intent to take his government right to the doorstep of the people. Illustration: Manorama

The 'Keraleeyam' festival, a week-long jambooree of seminars, exhibitions, film festivals and book fairs - is an attempt to globalise Kerala. The organisers hope that the success of the event would bolster the image of Pinarayi Vijayan, just the way the much touted triumph of the G-20 enhanced the aura of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It was also important to remind core voters of the party's socialist moorings. Thus, the Chief Minister's reiteration of one of the LDF's major promises: Extreme poverty would be eradicated by November 1, 2025. Also why he made it a point to announce that Kerala has once again been awarded for providing the largest number of free medical treatments in the country.

Step Two: Discredit Shah's men

After governance and welfare were taken care of, the Chief Minister set about discrediting the ED action in the Karuvannur bank scandal.

He described the Karuvannur scam as "one black grain in a plate full of white rice". "Just because there is one rotten grain, can the whole rice be deemed bad," the Chief Minister asked.

Karuvannur Cooperative Bank
Congress activists protesting in front of Karuvannur Cooperative Bank. FILE PHOTO: Manorama

He said that 98.5 percent of all the registered cooperative societies in Kerala were functioning in the most exemplary fashion. "Certain irregularities have been detected in less than 1.5 percent of our societies," he said, and added: "What this shows is that the cooperative sector in Kerala is functioning very efficiently."

The Chief Minister said this had made certain people "restless" and they were now out to destroy the sector.

He also said that the ED entered the picture when the Crime Branch was "doing a fine job". "The ED is going after the party with a political agenda. No one can be faulted if they suspect that their actions are carried out with the coming Lok Sabha elections in mind," he said.

Pinarayi said his government had not taken the complaints against the Karuvannur bank lightly. He said various documents were seized and 745 witnesses were interrogated. And on the basis of this, 18 people were arrested, including top functionaries of the bank.

What he left unsaid was that none of the arrested had any major links to the party.

When asked why Velappaya Satheesan, according to the ED the kingpin of the scam, was not even questioned by the Crime Branch, he said: "I can't talk for what the central agencies are doing. They are now trying to project certain people as the benamis of some top leaders. But everyone knows that the lives of such people are open books and that they do not require any benamis."

Nonetheless, since the ED action in Karuvannur is still in the primary stages, the Chief Minister's defence is unlikely to quell further questions.

Step Three: Call Khan for a fight

Finally, perhaps to take the attention away from Karuvannur, the Chief Minister tried to clear a battleground now overgrown with grass for want of use. After a long break, Pinarayi provoked Governor Arif Mohammad Khan during the media briefing.

He announced the decision to take the Governor to court for delaying assent to bills. The Chief Minister said that eight bills were waiting the Governor's nod, six of them for over one year and three of them for nearly two years.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (left) and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan during the visit of President Droupadi Murmu to Kochi in March this year. File photo: Manorama

"The government has no choice but to find a legal remedy to the issue. We have decided to approach the Supreme Court asking whether the Governor could indefinitely delay assent to bills passed by the legislature. We have also decided to take the services of senior lawyer K K Venugopal," the Chief Minister said.

Yet, the move seems a tad late. Governments like Telengana and Tamil Nadu, suffering like Kerala under the arbitrary actions of the governors, had already taken the issue to the Supreme Court.

Even then, there is an advantage in taking on the Governor. The Chief Minister can make it seem like an ideological fight, a fight for Constitutional principles.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.