The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan returned to power for a second term. This is the first time in 40 years that the ruling party has returned for a second term in Kerela.
The election happened in the backdrop of a gold smuggling scandal.
The investigation of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) saw the buck stop at the Chief Minister Office. Ministers in the LDF government and Kerela Legislative Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan faced allegations. The UDF coalition saw this as an opportunity to get back in power. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was also looking to expand on its vote base.
LDF Government Bucks the Trend
The LDF government, formed in 2016, had a rough time managing disasters. It had to deal with the Ockhi cyclone in 2017. The Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 and a devastating flood in the year 2019. The government had to contend with the political changes brought in by demonetization and the Goods and Service Tax (GST).
Handling the aftermath of the crisis of the Ockhi cyclone and the Nipah virus won the government accolades. The alacrity with which the government responded to the outbreak of the virus saved lives in the state. Following operational procedures, isolation of patients, using N-95 masks and sticking to the guidelines helped the state overcome the epidemic.
The LDF government invested a lot of political capital in the agricultural sector. Post the deadly floods in 2019, it succeeded in bringing in 2 lakh hectares of land under paddy cultivation. The cultivation of paddy and arable land increased during the tenure. The government concentrated on improving facilities and the environment for organic farming. They used barren land to cultivate vegetables. Vegetable markets for organically produced vegetables were promoted by linking them to the Onam festival.
The other areas related to agriculture – plantations, coconut orchards, animal husbandry- saw initiatives that benefitted the people involved in those industries. The LDF government also built 28,000 houses as a part of its ambitious LIFE (Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission, which strives to provide housing for all the landless in the state. In a report, a progress card from 2016-2019, launched by Governor, the government fulfilled 580 of the 600 promises promised during the 2016 elections.
On the eve of the elections, the LDF government launched a populist manifesto. It promised a pension of ₨ 2500 to women homemakers. To the farmers, they promised to increase their income by 50 per cent. A few of the items included in the manifesto were – 5000 crores earmarked for the development of the coastal areas; housing for all Adivasis; increasing the number of SMEs and MSMEs to 3,00,000; creation of valued-added industries; doubling the outlay of tourism and allotting 60,000 crores for infrastructure.
The experience of handling the Nipah outbreak helped the Kerala government in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the first case got reported, the Health Ministry in the state used technology to collate data. The medical boards and institutions came up with the concept of ‘home isolation’, set up COVID centres and came up with protocols. The experience of Nipah ensured the citizens of the state adapted quickly to the crisis.
The use of technology to collate data was limited to the first 500 patients. This led to a blind spot in data during the latter half of the pandemic’s first wave and second wave. The rising figures of Covid-19 cases put a spotlight on Kerala. Yet, it remains one of the better-managed states during the second wave in the country. It is the only state to have a surplus of oxygen supply while the northern states are waiting in despair for oxygen.
Despite allegations of mismanagement of flood relief funds in 2019 and investigation into the Chief Minister and sitting ministers, the crisis management ability of the government and its populist manifesto seems to have worked in favour of the government.
Impact of Rahul Gandhi
In the 2019 general elections, Rahul Gandhi left the seat of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh to contest from Wayanad. He won the seat with 4,31,770 votes. During the Lok Sabha elections, Congress won 19 out of 20 seats.
Looked on in the Congress party as a Prime Minister in the waiting, Rahul Gandhi is the second most crucial cog in the Congress machinery. He enjoys immense popularity in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Kerala, 58 per cent of the voters prefer Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate. He was the star campaigner for Congress in Kerala.
However, the Congress party failed to hold on to the gains made in the Lok Sabha elections. In the recently held local body polls, the LDF coalition trumped Congress. The LDF won 514 of the 941 Gram Panchayats, 10 of the 14 District Panchayats and 108 of the 152 Block Panchayats.
Rahul Gandhi started his election campaign far before that of the BJP in the current assembly elections. He frequently visited the state during the campaign. In Thiruvananthapuram, he courted controversy stating that going to Kerala was refreshing because the people were interested in and not just go superficially into details.
He has been unable to control the dissent within the party. Many senior Congress leaders jumped the ship to the BJP-led alliance before the polls. Today, it is reported that the young leaders given tickets on the behest of Rahul Gandhi did not fare well in the election.
The Unique Relation of Left and Congress in Kerala
The Left and Congress share a unique relationship. From the pre-independence time to the current day, they have shared the stage as opposition and allies. Despite being political opponents in states, the Left and Congress enjoyed political bonhomie at the national level.
The Communist Party split when a faction of the party supported Nehru during the 1962 war. Indira Gandhi relied on the Left to save her government when the Congress party split in 1967. The UPA coalition that came to power in 2004 enjoyed the support of the left parties in the Parliament until they withdrew support during the No-Confidence motion when the government pursued a civil nuclear deal with America.
With the emergence of the BJP as a dominant political force, the Left and the Congress continued to ally in elections across the country. With the Congress splitting into multiple factions during 1957-1980 and the Left being a dominant political force, the UDF coalition consisting of Congress and the LDF remained political rivals.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, health minister KK Shailaja, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, Power Minister M M Mani and Higher Education Minister KK Jaleel are prominent leaders of the ruling party testing their luck with the voters.
The Congress pinned its hopes on Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, senior leaders K Muraleedharan, PT Thomas and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan to carry them to victory.
The BJP fielded former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan, ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan, state president K Surendran, senior leader Shobha Surendran, Rajya Sabha members Suresh Gopi and K J Alphons to contest the election in the hopes to expand its vote share.
All the high profile candidates of the ruling LDF coalition secured victories in their constituencies. CM Pinarayi Vijayan won the Dharmadam seat with a margin of 50,123 votes defeating the Congress party representative. Kadakampally Surendran won his constituency with a margin of 23,497 votes defeating BJP leader Shobha Sundaresan. Having amassed goodwill with her handling of the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks, health minister KK Shailaja won Mattanur with a whopping 60,000 votes.
Congress stalwarts Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala won their constituencies Puthuppally and Haripad with a margin of 9,044 votes and 13,666. BJP bigwigs Kummanam Rajasekharan, ‘Metroman’ E Sreedharan, Suresh Gopi, registered their presence in the initial rounds of counting but could not hold onto their leads.
Presence of the Bharatiya Janata Party
The BJP did not win any constituency in the 2021 Kerala Assembly election. Yet, it has retained its vote share. It received around 12 per cent of the votes polled.
The BJP roped in its star campaigners Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Minister Smriti Irani to campaign in Kerala. Their manifesto was populist on the lines of its political opponents. It carried the plank of Hindutva along with it.
The BJP hoped to make inroads weaving its political strategy around the issues of the Sabarimala temple and love jihad. They promised to enact a law against law jihad if they came to power. Of late, the Syro-Malabar Church has commented that the radical elements in the Muslim community were targeting Christian girls in the name of love jihad. The Jacobite Church said it was open to allying itself with the BJP to counter the Orthodox Church.
Apart from the Church, the BJP is looking to gain the votes of the Nair and Ezhava Hindu communities in Kerala. In the current election, it allied with a party representing the subaltern Ezhava community in the state. Though the LDF and UDF remain the dominant political coalitions, the BJP is slowly making inroads into Kerala.
Ram Mandir Opening For “Darshan” In 2023
The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is expected to allow visitors by December 2023, with the completion of construction only in 2025.
Sources in the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra have revealed that the colossal project of building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, will be opening for devotees towards the end of 2023. In contrast, the project’s entire construction completion is expected towards the end of 2025. The sanctum sanctorum (Garbha Griha), along with the mandir’s first floor, will be ready by December 2023. Devotees will be allowed to visit the long-awaited mandir soon after the construction is completed.
An ANI report said, “The grand Ram Mandir being constructed in Ayodhya will be opened for devotees from December 2023. Sources told ANI that Garbhagriha, all five mandaps and the first floor will be ready by December 2023 and the mandir will be opened for devotees”.
Completion of entire Ram Temple complex in Ayodhya is expected by the year 2025; A museum, digital archives and a research centre also to come up in the temple complex: Sources
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) August 4, 2021
The sanctum sanctorum will be as high as 161 feet and built using Rajasthani marble and stones. Engineers and architects are taking all measures to ensure the longevity of this enormous project. The second stage of construction is expected to begin in December this year. Currently, the structure is at a standstill as a result of monsoons. Another reason for the delay is the coronavirus pandemic that depleted the force with which the mandir’s construction was expected to go on.
Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be ready in a year or two. Delhi government has decided to take senior citizens to Ayodhya for Ram Lalla's darshan with travel, accommodation, and food expenses to be borne by us: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal pic.twitter.com/MDGeP0k613
— ANI (@ANI) March 14, 2021
The announcement of the mandir being opened to visitors in 2023 has brought up questions about the political agenda. It is believed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims to use the mandir to catapult themselves into a position of advantage during the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Opening the mandir to devotees in December 2023 will give the BJP an easy 6-month gap to the general elections in 2024.
The opening of the long-awaited Ram Mandir in Ayodhya could be the factor that diverts the public, at least the Hindu’s in favour of BJP. Thus, securing them a vote bank based on religious sentiments upheld by the party in their previous tenure as the ruling party.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir will be 360 feet long, 235 feet wide, and 20 feet high mandir will be completely ready by the end of 2025. The project will include amenities and structures like museums, archives, research centre, Sant Niwas, gau and Yagya shala, Etc. The main attraction is the Ram Mandir.
Centre to SC: Shreya Singhal Judgement- States Also Have Liability To Guarantee Individuals Not Troubled Utilizing Scrapped Section 66A
The Center has submitted to the Supreme Court that police and police requests being state subjects, the obligation to ensure the execution of the pronouncement that annuls Section 66A of the Information Technology Act belongs to the states. Further, the law requires organizations to share equivalent obligations to hold out the judgment.
On July 5, 2021, a Bench drove by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said it was “upsetting,” “shocking” and “terrible” that individuals are as yet reserved and tried under Section 66A even six years after the apex court struck down the arrangement as unlawful and an infringement of free speech. The NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties, represented by senior lawyer Sanjay Parikh and advocate Aparna Bhat, had made the court take notice of the contempt.
Undead segment: About Section 66A of the IT Act
In its reaction, the Centre said the police and public request were “State subjects” under the Constitution. “Counteraction, location, examination and arraignment of wrongdoings and limit the working of the police are essentially the obligation of the States,” the Centre submitted in the affidavit. It said law requirement organizations share equivalent obligation to agree with the apex court judgment. They make a move against cybercrime offenders according to the law.
The Centre said the Ministries of Information and Technology and Home Affairs gave a valiant effort to disperse information about the Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case. Section 66A had suggested three years of imprisonment if an online media message caused “disturbance” or was found “terribly antagonistic”. Mr Parikh had welcomed the court intervention to work out a system to disperse the Shreya Singhal judgment to each police headquarters and preliminary court in the country.
“Section 66A of the IT Act has continued being utilized inside police base camp just as in cases under the attentive gaze of primer courts across India. This data was accessible on the Zombie Tracker site, created by a group of independent researchers. The discoveries of the site uncover that as of March 10, 2021, upwards of 745 cases are as yet forthcoming and dynamic under the steady gaze of region courts in 11 States, wherein the denounced are being indicted for offences of the IT Act under Section 66A.” the PUCL has acquiesced.
The accommodation has been in the rejoinder affidavit filed by PUCL in the apex court. This response was because of the Centre’s counter-affidavit in a petition filed by PUCL looking for different bearings and rules against the FIRs scraped under the struck-down Section 66A.
PUCL in, its rejoinder affidavit through Advocate Aparna Bhat, has contended that the Union of India should not have avoided its commitment by arguing that the obligation of execution lies with the States just as with the law enforcement agencies. It mentioned alluding to Union’s accommodation in its affirmation that ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are state subjects. Accordingly, the obligation rests with the State.
Alluding to the Centre’s accommodation that they had mentioned Chief Secretaries, all things considered, and Administers of Union Territories to outfit information for arraignments summoning Section 66A get-togethers, PUCL has contended that the reaction to the said letters have ‘nor set on record nor unveiled.’ PUCL has been tending that looking for removal of its application mentioning the execution of the judgment downplays the enormous scope infringement of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to fair trials of citizens.
The applicant has proposed the additional directions to be given by the Court in the matter:
Directions to High Courts:
The applicant has looked for specific bearings to every one of the High Courts through Registrar Generals. The proposed headings ought to impart to every one of the District Courts and Magistrates that forthwith there ought to be no cognizance taken under the revoked Section 66A of the IT Act. It had been expressed that the High Courts be permitted to start Suo Motu contempt procedures against those liable for enlisting a case under Section 66A or for examining it or for indicting it.
Directions to DGPs:
The applicant has recommended that bearings are given to the Director-General of Police and Union Territories to convey to all police headquarters inside their separate locales to show a notification that Section 66A of the IT Act has been scrapped. Also, no case can be enrolled under the cancelled Section 66A of the IT Act.
Directions to Respondents:
Decisions have looked to the Respondents, Union of India, to accumulate the nuances of the cases enrolled by the Police or Law Enforcement Agencies under Section 66A of IT Act since the judgment of Shreya Singhal revealed by coordination with the chief secretaries of the DGP of the States and Union territories.
As per the applicant, Respondents can coordinate to guarantee that Doordarshan and All India Radio make quarterly declarations in significant vernacular dialects advising the public that Section 66A of the IT Act is presently not in power. The applicant has looked for bearings to guarantee that all authority and business forms of the IT Act that are here in after distributed (on the web or disconnected) do exclude the total content of Section 66A and educate the per user that said arrangement stands revoked.
The Shreya Singhal judgment had delivered by the seat which, lifted Section 66A by Judge J Chelameswar and RF Nariman for a violation of Articles 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The judgment wrote by Justice Nariman held the arrangement to be obscure, over the edge, and making an alarming impact on free discourse.
SC/ST Act Misuse: Alleged Fraudulence Of The Atrocities Act?
The Government of India, recently, claimed in an answer to the MPs of Rajya Sabha, that according to research, many states have conviction rates that are even lower than 1%.
In the year 2019, there were a total of 41,793 incidences of crime or atrocities against Dalits and 7815 cases of crime against tribal people. According to the report, only 44 out of 6540 cases of crimes or atrocities against Dalits in Bihar have been proven factual in trial courts. The STs filed a total of 97 cases under the SC-ST Act, but only two were judged to be true.
The conviction rate was 0.67 percent for men and 2.06 percent for women. It also stipulates the state with the most cases of crime against SCs is Uttar Pradesh, with 9451 cases, or 22.61 percent of all such cases in the country. Rajasthan comes in second with 6659 cases (15.9% of total cases), followed by Bihar (15.6%), and Madhya Pradesh (12.6 percent). In the last year, the number of ST cases filed in UP has increased by 600 percent.
According to the information, 705 cases were filed, however just one case was found to be true during the trials. The conviction rate in Kerala and Karnataka is slightly more than 1%. The SC-ST Act has been used in 1,733 cases in Karnataka. The conviction rate, on the other hand, was only 1.67%. In Kerala, the average conviction rate for atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis under the PoA Act remained at 1.76%. These claims sure put the concerned legislation on spot for being exploited.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, aimed to prohibit the atrocities committed against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, to establish Special Courts for the trial of such offences and the relief and rehabilitation of victims of such acts, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental thereto.
The number of complaints against the misuse of the same has arisen in the last few years. The apex court has had stated in the past, that the Act has been misused to submit bogus complaints to foster caste animosity, rather than blurring caste barriers, adding that, if the Atrocities Act is not brought into line, it may even “perpetuate casteism,” and the court will have to act to prevent “false implication of innocent persons along caste lines.”
However, when seen through the lens of why the Act was necessary and how well it was administered, a different image emerges. The court’s stated goal in a 2018 ruling for the Prevention of Atrocities Act, was to safeguard officers from “arbitrary arrest” and “innocent civilians” from being falsely accused in cases. But according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, low conviction rates under the Act may be due to the misuse of the provision as much as the way investigations and cases are pursued in the courts.
Those who have pushed for stricter rules under the Act argue that the low conviction rate is due to the way cases are registered and prosecuted. “Dalits are frequently the victims of discriminatory treatment in the administration of justice,” according to a Human Rights Watch report.
According to a report published in the Economic & Political Weekly, approximately half of the cases brought under the Act do not get to court and are closed by the police. It had also hinted at a “caste bias among the investigating officers.” Sthabir Khora, an assistant professor, alleges that compounding, compensation inducement, and criminal intimidation are some of the practices that tend to prevail when the complainant is from the SC/ST category.
In October 2019, the top court observed the National Crime Records Bureau, where over 47,000 cases were reported in 2016 under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “It would be against the basic human dignity to treat all of them (SC/ST members) as a liar or as a crook person and cannot look at every complaint by such complainant with a doubt,” remarked justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai.
The bench stated that if a case filed under the SC/ST Act is determined to be false or baseless, many a time. It could be due to poor investigation or other factors such as human failures, regardless of caste. Therefore, all such accounts must be taken into consideration before making an informed decision to serve justice.
The bench had also added, “All humans are equal including in their failings. To treat SCs and STs as persons who are prone to lodge false reports under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act for taking revenge or otherwise as monetary benefits made available to them in the case of their being subjected to such offence, would be against fundamental human equality.”
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