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.
LLP Amendment Bill Passed
The Limited Liability Partnership(Amendment) Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha(Upper House) on July 29, 2021, after the approval of the Union Cabinet on July 28, 2021. Before understanding the LLP Amendment Bill let’s first understand what is LLP.
What is LLP?
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is an alternative corporate business form that gives the benefits of limited liability of a company and the flexibility in a partnership. It is a separate legal entity, which is liable to the full extent of its assets but the liability of the partners is limited to their agreed contribution in Limited Liability Partnership. One of the advantages of LLP is that it can continue its validity irrespective of changes in partners. It is capable of joining into new contracts and holding equity in its name.
In this corporate business form, no partner is liable on account of the independent or unauthorised actions of other partners, thus individual partners are shielded from joint liability created by another partner’s illicit business decisions or misbehaviour. Common rights and duties of the partners within a Limited Liability Partnership are governed by an agreement between the partners. However, the LLP is not reassured of the liability for its other obligations as a separate entity. As it contains components of both a ‘corporate structure’ as well as a ‘partnership firm structure’, LLP is called a hybrid between a company and a partnership.
Which are the countries where the LLP form is functional?
Countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, various Gulf countries and Singapore are the nations where the LLP structure is functional. As per the advice of experts who have studied LLP legislations in various countries, the LLP Act is extensively based on the UK LLP Act of 2000 and the Singapore LLP Act 2005. Both the Acts allow the creation of LLP in a corporate body form which means as a separate legal entity, separate from its partners.
What is the LLP Amendment Bill & what are the key highlights of the bill?
Limited Liability Partnership Amendment Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on August 4, 2021. All the members of the Upper House had agreed to pass this bill and have been working towards it since July 29, 2021. The Amendment Bill aims to boost greater ease of living to law-abiding corporates and to legitimize certain provisions of the Act.
Some of the important highlights of the bill are:
- Decriminalize certain offences: As per the Bill, it defines the way of operating the LLP’s provided that violation of these requirements will lead to punishment with a fine varying from 25,000 INR to five lakh INR. The requirements consist of changes in partners of the LLP, change in registered office, filing declaration of account and annual returns & agreement between the partners and an LLP. The bill exacts a monetary fine.
- Punishment on fraud: Under the Act, if a partner or an LLP carry out any forgery activities to their creditors and every individual who is involved in the hoax will be punished with up to two years of imprisonment, along with the 50,000 INR to five lakh INR of fine. The Bill increases the term of imprisonment from two to five years.
- Compounding of offences: The bill amends to provide an officer who will be appointed by the central government, may compound the offences and impose a punishable fine. If the offence was compounded by an LLP or its partners, then in this case a similar offence cannot be compounded within three years.
- Institution of Special Court: This bill enables the central government to establish special courts for assuring active trail of offences under the Act. The special court consists of a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge. They will adjudicate offences punishable with three or more years of imprisonment and a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate for other offences. They will be selected with the accord of the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- Opening of Small LLP’s: This Bill contributes to the formation of small LLP’s in which the partners contribute up to 25 lakh INR, turnover for the coming year is up to 40 lakh INR. The government can declare certain LLP as start-up LLP.
- Non-compliance with tribunal orders: As per the Act, non-compliance with an ordinance of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a punishable offence of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 INR. This bill removes such offences.
- Adjudicating Officers: As per the bill, the central government may assign adjudicating officers for allotting penalties under the Act. These officers will be central government officers only. Appeals against the orders of the Adjudicating officer will lie in the hand of the Regional Director.
- Institution of Appellate Tribunal: As per the bill, the appeals cannot be made against an order that he’s passed along with the permission of the parties. The Appeals should be filed within the time frame of 60 days of order.
- Standards of accounting: According to the bill, the central government may specify the criteria of accounting and auditing for groups of LLP in meeting with the National Financial Reporting Authority.
These are the salient parts of the amended bill.
India-Bangladesh: Reopen Cross-Border Rail Lines After 56 years
On August 1, 2021, Indian Railways sent the first stone-filled freight train to Bangladesh from Damdim Station of the Northeast Frontier Railway, resuming activity on the Haldibari Chilahati route. The network between Bangladesh and India will improve due to the continuing rail course that snapped in 1965.
After the partition in 1947, seven rail joins were functional among India and then East Pakistan till 1965. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail interface is one of those courses. As indicated by the railway authorities, the main products train to convey stone chips left from Damdim station of Jalpaiguri area in West Bengal on Sunday morning.
It came to a halt at Chilahati station in the Nilphamari region in the early evening. Aside from the Haldibari-Chilahati rail connect, at present, there are four working rail routes between India and Bangladesh. The current operational rail routes are – Petrapole (India)- Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)– Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)- Rohanpur (Bangladesh) and Radhikapur (India)– Birol (Bangladesh).
This railway interface between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) was initiated by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh during the PM level virtual summit on December 17, 2020. Things that can be transported from India to Bangladesh via this railway combining rocks and boulders, food grains, fresh fruits, chemical fertilizers, onions, chilli, garlic, ginger, fly ash, clay, limestone, wood, and lumber, etcetera. From Bangladesh to India, everything is allowed which exported.
“The commissioning of this rail interface will establish the India-Bangladesh rail connection and future trade. Likewise, the revamped rail network to key ports and dry docks will help boost neighbourhood trade and improve the monetary and social well-being of the space,” the high commission said.
The Government of India gave over ten-wide-measure diesel trains as an aid to help Bangladesh Railways. The virtual event was attended by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, and their Bangladeshi accomplices Md Nurul Islam Sujon and Dr A K Abdul Momen on July 27, 2020. Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu) interfacing LCS Sub room (Tripura) and LCS Ramgarh (Bangladesh) have been introduced on a virtual stage by both the Prime Ministers on March 09, 2021.
This will fundamentally further develop availability with Bangladesh. The preliminary attempt of the parcel of Indian merchandise from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram had led in July 2020, notwithstanding the pandemic. Bangladesh – India, the connection is presently supposed to be at its best.
The year 2021, regardless of the continuous COVID-19 pandemic, has been seeing a significant level of commitment at political and official levels. Prime Minister Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh from March 26 – 27. He participated in the Golden Jubilee celebration of Independence of Bangladesh, the centenary of the birth of the founding father Benjabandu Sheikh Mujipur Rahman, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of peaceful relations between India and Bangladesh. Both governments are trying different measures to rebuild the railway hub before 1965 and, another connection network existed between India and Bangladesh.
During the visit of PM Hasina to New Delhi in October 2019, the two governments chose to initiate Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Dhaka transport administration to upgrade people to people contact between both the nations. The path run of Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka was likewise held in December 2019.
In May 2020, the second appendix of the Inland Waters Transit and Trade Protocol (PIWTT) approved two new routes in the India-Bangladesh Protocol (Sonamura Daudkandi on the Gomti waterway, and from Dhulia to Godagiri to Aricha in the current Padma), five new ports of call and two extended ports of call. Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol Route had also operationalized in September 2020.
Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link – Connectivity benefits:
The Haldibari-Chilahati route will give travel association with Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal in India. The rail network will connect the prime ports, dry ports, to help the development. It will boost the financial and social advancement of the area.
Businesses and everyday citizens of the two nations will want to receive the rewards of the two merchandise and traveller train administrations when all trains are anticipated procedure on the course. With the new rail route, individuals from Bangladesh can visit tourist destinations like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars in India.
Also, the Karimganj and Mahisashan rail connection between Assam and Bangladesh is to be functional from 2022. The other rail connection between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India) will be operational by the end of the year.
Assam Issues Travel Advisory Due To Safety Concerns
Assam Government on Thursday issued a travel advisory asking its residents not to travel to Mizoram due to safety concerns and asked those already in the state to exercise caution. The travel advisory came after the tension between the neighbouring states, days after the violent border clashes erupted in which seven people were killed.
Advisory issued by MS Manivannan, Commissioner and secretary in Assam’s home and the political department said, “Given the critical prevailing situation, the people of Assam advised not to travel to Mizoram as any threat to the personal safety of people of Assam cannot be accepted”.
A day before the Assam travel advisory, Mizoram issued a public notice stating that “It is hereby notified that there shall be no restrictions on the movement of non-residents of Mizoram traveling through Kolasib district”, followed by the phone numbers of the officers if any problem arises.
Mizoram Police has filed an FIR against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and four police officers, along with two officials connected with the clashes at the inter-state border. On charges of Attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy in connection with the violent border clashes.
On the other hand, Assam police Summoned Mizoram Rajya Sabha member K Vanlalvena And six top officials over the alleged role in border tension. K Vanlalvena told reporters on Wednesday, “More than 200 policemen entered a territory and they pushed back our policeman from our own post and they gave firing orders first before we fired. They are lucky that we didn’t kill them all. If they come again, we shall kill them all.”
Assam and Mizoram share a 164.6-km-long border, which has long been a cause of dispute. Three districts in the south of Assam Hailakandi, Cachar, and Karimganj share the border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Aizawl and Mamit districts.
On 26 July, border tensions erupted between Both the neighbouring States Assam and Mizoram, in which 6 Assam police personnel and a civilian were dead. Both states are blaming each other for the violence on Twitter, asking the centre to intervene and resolve the situation amicably.
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