Kerala Budget on March 11, Assembly session in two phases

Kerala Finance Minister KN Balagopal
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal. File photo

Now that the Kerala Lok Ayukta (Amendment) Ordinance has been signed, the Cabinet on Wednesday decided to start this year's first and the second Pinarayi Ministry's third Assembly session with the Governor's Address on February 18. The Cabinet also approved the Governor's address to be read out on February 18.

Breaking away from the usual practice of having the Budget presentation right after the discussion on the Governor's address, K N Balagopal will present his first full budget only on March 11, after nearly a fortnight recess.

Balagopal's first Budget, presented on June 4, 2021, was merely an addendum to the Budget already presented by his predecessor T M Thomas Isaac on January 15, 2021.

The third session of the 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly will be held in two phases; from February 18 to 25 and then the Assembly will reconvene on March 10 for the Budget session, which includes the Budget presentation and the subsequent discussions. The break, it is said, has been planned for the smooth organisation of the CPM State Conference in the first week of March.

There was criticism, especially from the UDF, that the session was delayed because the LDF government had to first secure the Governor's approval for the Lok Ayukta ordinance, which seeks to reduce the powers of the judicial body. It would not have been constitutionally possible for the government to promulgate an ordinance once the dates for an Assembly session were announced.

Initially, it was felt that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who was already in confrontation mode with the government in the issue of political interference in universities, would send back the Ordinance for clarification and embarrass the government.

Nonetheless, after keeping the government on tenterhooks for 22 days, the Governor finally signed on the dotted line. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's closed-door meeting with the Governor right after he returned from his foreign trip seems to have convinced the Governor of the importance of the ordinance.

The second biggest constituent of the LDF, the CPI, has expressed its displeasure over what has been termed a hasty and arbitrary move. The CPI general secretary Kanam Rajendran has publicly stated that the Chief Minister had not discussed the Lok Ayukta amendment in the LDF. CPI assistant secretary Prakash Babu even termed the ordinance "unconstitutional".

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