Did CPI minister use UDF as proxy to criticise government on his behalf?

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Shafi Parambil, GR Anil. Photo: Onmanorama

What if one is furious with one's team but cannot express it? The time-tested strategy is to redirect one's anger at opponents, provoke them and make them mouth all that one wanted to express. Civil Supplies minister G R Anil seems to have adopted such a crafty strategy to make the Opposition UDF say certain things he badly wanted to tell his own government.

It is by now known that the Civil Supplies minister was unhappy with the amount allocated for Supplyco in K N Balagopal's latest budget. But while responding to an adjournment motion moved by Congress MLA Shafi Parambil in the Assembly on Tuesday, the minister did not provide any hint of his displeasure, though he admitted that there was shortage of certain essential commodities.

But he was critical of the Opposition. The minister made the provocative insinuation that the UDF, by speaking of Supplyco's problems, was making way for the entry of big corporate houses to Kerala's retail sector.
"We know the big corporate players have eyes for our retail sector. They are trying to sneak into our villages by spreading the impression that Supplyco is in crisis. The Opposition should not get caught in this trap," the CPI minister said. "There is an attempt to destroy Supplyco by extensively campaigning against it," he added.

The UDF was suitably enraged. Responding to the minister's comments, Shafi Parambil said: "It is you who just stood up and said that certain essential commodities are not available in these outlets. So when a minister himself says that there is shortage of essential goods, it is clear we are not the ones who are trying to destroy Supplyco for big corporates, nor are we the ones desirous of cutting off such a lifeline. If you have said that there are people who harbour such a wish, you were not pointing fingers at us but at those seated in the front row of your side," Shafi said.

"Is it the Opposition that is denying funds for Supplyco? Are we responsible for the poor support extended to you," he asked. Shafi told the minister that even his wife understood the position taken by the UDF. There were reports that Anil's wife Latha Devi had criticised the poor budget allocation for Supplyco at the CPI State Council meeting.

Shafi then gave out figures that demonstrated the LDF government's stingy attitude towards Supplyco. He said the allocation in 2021-22 was Rs 150 crore. But Supplyco was given just half of this, Rs 75 crore. In 2022-23, Rs 180 crore was set apart in the budget. But not a single rupee was transferred to Supplyco. "Are we the ones contributing to Supplyco's destruction and aiding the entry of corporates," Shafi asked rhetorically. He said the minister himself had given in a written reply to the Assembly that the Finance Department had held up Rs 1507 crore meant exclusively for Supplyco market intervention activities.

Opposition Leader V D Satheesan, too, repeated these figures. He also said that the Supplyco was made to bear the burden of providing 13 essential commodities at subsidised rates. "You did not raise the prices but you also ignored the crisis Supplyco was being pushed into," Satheesan said.
Interestingly, the minister did not bother to counter the figures put out by the Congress leaders nor their arguments.

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