Kerala's LDF govt defeats opposition's no-confidence motion after marathon Assembly session


The motion of no confidence moved by the opposition UDF against the Kerala Government on Monday was rejected with 87 votes cast against the 40 in favour.

The voting took place in the Kerala Assembly after a day long heated session that began in the morning and extended past 9pm.

Notably, the Jose K Mani faction of Kerala Congress (Mani) abstained from voting, a clear act of rebellion towards UDF.

The Jose K Mani faction, expelled from the UDF last month following a bitter tussle with the P J Joseph faction, has two MLAs on their side – N Jayaraj of Kanjirappally constituency and Roshy Augustine of Idukki.

The motion was moved by Congress MLA V D Satheesan who raised two fresh allegations against the LDF government, apart from the existing charges.

One, he said Rs 4.25 crore was not the only amount paid as commission by Unitac, the builder of the Life Mission houses in Wadakkanchery, Thrissur but Rs 5 crore more was paid as bribe. Satheesan also alleged that this additional Rs 5 crore bribe had links to the owner of the Bevco App the government had picked for sale of liquor in Kerala.

The Congress legislator said that the Life Mission houses in Wadakkanchery were constructed for just Rs 10 crore when the UAE had promised Rs 20 crore for the project. "Rs 9.25 crore is the bribe given for bagging the project. This means 46 percent of the project amount has gone as commission. This would qualify as a national record," Satheesan said.

He challenged the LDF government to institute a probe into this.

UDF banner against state govt in Assembly
UDF banner against state govt in Kerala Assembly

Satheesan's next charge was related to the bid amount quoted by Trivandrum International Airport Limited (TIAL), the special purpose vehicle floated by KSIDC to take part in the Thiruvananthapuram Airport bid.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in his reply derided the opposition UDF for moving a motion of no confidence and mocked that the latter had lost faith in themselves. The CM said in the Assembly that the supporters have lost their trust in the UDF and it is the factionalism within the front that prompted the move for the no-confidence motion.

“The people of Kerala trust the state government. The rise in the number of LDF seats from 91 to 93 attests to this,” Vijayan added.

Vijayan also slammed Congress, the largest member of the opposition front, terming it a group that vies to emulate the BJP. Vijayan also mentioned the recent developments in the Congress Working Committee and pointed out the party's indecision even in choosing a leader.

Regarding the Thiruvananthapuram Airport bid, Vijayan had earlier argued that the legal firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM), which has close familial links to the Adani group, was not involved in calibrating the bid amount. "They did only the legal vetting," the Chief Minister said and added, "The bid amount was decided separately, by a high-level committee set up by the government," he added.

He argued that CAM was chosen solely on the basis of their legal capability. "When a person like Kapil Sibal is chosen as one's lawyer, it is not because of his Congress links but because of his legal acumen," Vijayan said to demonstrate there was nothing ethically wrong in the choice. He said the firm had also said right at the outset that there was no conflict of interest. 

BJP protest
BJP protest outside Kerala Assembly

Satheesan but pointed out the possibility that the bid amount could have been leaked. He said TIAL had a price advantage, what in technical parlance is called the right of first refusal (RoFR). Only if the competitor outbid TIAL by 10 percent would the project slip out of its hands.

Satheesan said KPMG, the other consultant in the airport project, had recommended that the quote amount could range from Rs 134 to 151. TIAL quoted Rs 135 per passenger and Adani's bid was for Rs 168, which was 19 percent higher.

Satheesan said even if TIAL had quoted Rs 151, the top range recommended by KPMG, it would have still lost the bid. "Had we quoted Rs 151 we would have won the bid only if Adani's bid was Rs 166 or lower. But Adani added Rs two more and quoted Rs 168, which is just over 10 percent more than Rs 151," Satheesan said, hinting that insider information flowed to the Adani Group.

"Someone had leaked our tender amount to the Adani Group," he said.

Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan seconded the motion presented by Satheesan.

The opposition has been attacking the government on various issues, including the Gold smuggling case and Life Mission housing project for the poor since the past few days.

In the 140 member house, LDF has 91 members and UDF 45.

Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan
Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan

A no confidence motion against the government is being brought after 15 years.

It was in 2005, that Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had moved a motion alleging corruption charges against the Oommen Chandy government.

Speaker rejects motion seeking his removal

The one-day Assembly session began on a sour note with the opposition insisting that the motion seeking the removal of Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan for his "suspicious closeness" to a gold smuggling accused be taken up and the Speaker refusing to oblige.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala raised the issue right after the motion of no confidence against the LDF government was allowed. Chennithala said that the Speaker was unnecessarily taking cover under Assembly rules when he himself had convened the Assembly by violating rules. The Speaker had rejected the motion moved by Muslim League MLA M A Ummer saying it did not have the time gap of 14 days.

He said that if the summons to convene the Assembly was issued 15 days before the start of the session, as was mandatory, the opposition would have got the 14-day period necessary to move the motion against the Speaker.

Chennithala said that the Cabinet had decided to convene the Assembly session only on August 12, and the notification was circulated only on August 14. "How are we expected to send the notice before 14 days. If the 15-day period to convene the session could be waived, the opposition leader said the need to have a 14-day period to move a motion against the Speaker could also be waived.

The Speaker said that the 15-day time for convening the session was not a rigid rule. "In an emergency situation, the session could be convened at short notice. But the motion for the removal of the Speaker comes under Article 179 (C) of the Constitution. Even if I want to, I can't help you," the Speaker said.

Article 179 (C) says that a resolution for the removal of a speaker can be moved unless at least fourteen days' notice has been given of the intention to move the resolution.

The by-election to the lone Rajya Sabha seat, which fell vacant after the passing of sitting member 83-year-old M P Veerendra Kumar, a media baron and veteran socialist, on May 28, would also be held in the House.

Finance Bill passed

The state's Finance Bill was passed on Monday during the one-day assembly session. The state budget was presented in February, the Finance Bill 2020-21 could not be passed as the house had been adjourned sine die on March 13 due to the coronavirus scare.

Joint resolution seeking withdrawal of decision to lease TVPM airport

The Kerala Assembly Monday passed a "unanimous resolution" demanding the withdrawal of Union Cabinet's decision to lease out the international airport here to Adani Enterprises Ltd.

Moving the resolution, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre should re-examine its decision and the operation and management of the airport be handed over to the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which the state government has stake.

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