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Last Updated Tuesday April 24 2018 02:41 AM IST

What ails the Pinarayi administration?

Prem Udayabhanu
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What ails the Pinarayi administration? Pinarayi Vijayan. PTI/File photo

S.M.Vijayanand, a 1981 batch Indian Administrative Service official, took over as chief secretary of Kerala on April 30 last year.

And on May 25, 2016, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front assumed power in the state after receiving an overwhelming mandate.

That mandate reflected a vote against an administration perceived as corrupt to the core. And no one knew this better than Pinarayi, the incumbent chief minister.

In a brief interaction with Onmanorama after the Pinarayi government took over, Vijayanand hinted that the CM's clear message to the bureaucracy was to ensure zero tolerance against corruption.

A few days before stepping down from the chief secretary's post, Vijayanand himself had prepared a note putting Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau director Jacob Thomas in the dock.

The note mentions serious lapses on the part of Thomas in concealing facts about his wealth while submitting details of his assets.

SM Vijayanand's parting shot puts Jacob Thomas in the dock

The note was submitted to the advocate general to appear in a case against Thomas, who had been asked to go on leave by the LDF government.

Asking to go on leave, in official parlance, is an euphemism for shifting an official from a post.

Bureaucracy miffed

Certainly, all is not well with the Pinarayi administration and its handling of bureaucrats.

Perhaps, it was as part of his anti-corruption crusade that Pinarayi sought to appoint Thomas as vigilance chief.

But first, Thomas' unilateral actions provoked the IAS officials after he initiated a probe against some of them.

The IAS officials were even contemplating to go on a mass casual leave, though saner counsel prevailed and Pinarayi managed to persuade them to back off from what would have been an unprecedented procedure.

However, the CM did not waver from his stand that Jacob Thomas was an upright official and that he would not be removed from the post.

At that point, it seemed as if Thomas would sail through despite opposition from even a section of the CPM inimical to the vigilance chief.

Even two weeks ago, Pinarayi backed Thomas to the hilt in the assembly during a discussion on charges that the vigilance chief had illegal assets in Tamil Nadu.

In between the Kerala High Court had passed adverse remarks against Thomas and even wondered why he was not removed from the post for crossing his jurisdiction.

A section of the CPM may also be miffed at the way Thomas dealt with some suggestions regarding the nepotism case involving E.P. Jayarajan, the first minister to quit the Pinarayi cabinet.

A larger malaise

The larger malaise that is afflicting the Pinarayi government is the policy paralysis that is also perhaps an off-shoot of the tussle between the IAS officials and vigilance chief.

A stickler for propriety, Vijayanand may not have said this unequivocally, but this feeling is coming to the fore.

There is a definite sense of inaction that emanates from the corridors of power at the state secretariat.

The Kerala Administrative Service (KAS), which is being firmly pushed by the government, may also have resulted in injecting some apathy in the bureaucracy.

This alone is not what is dragging the Pinarayi government, which is gearing up to mark its first anniversary in a month's time.

The policy paralysis also stems from the perception that the CM's office is the omnipotent authority.

That could be one reason why all the key decisions and files are perhaps routed through the CM's office burdening its functioning.

The CPM's appointment of M.V. Jayarajan as private secretary to the CM is a tacit admission of the slow pace at which the files are moving.

Read also: MV Jayarajan on a new mission – to make Pinarayi's office more people-friendly

'Every file is a slice of a life itself,' Pinarayi had famously said after taking over the reins of the state.

Perhaps files aren't moving at a pace required as is evident by an official report, which reveals that the government could not spend a major chunk of state plan funds earmarked for the last financial year.

As the LDF government completes a year in office, the Pinarayi government should revisit this famous comment made by the CM himself and make amends to its functioning if it aims to carry on its self-proclaimed people friendly activities.

Only if it initiates confidence-building measures with a wary bureaucracy, shrugs off political apathy and tames the CMO's super authority status can it hope to regain the trust quotient it has so easily forfeited after a thumping mandate.

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