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'Iron-fisted' Pinarayi to be Kerala CM: Here are the challenges he faces

P Venugopal | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:44 IST

Pinarayi Vijayan is all set to be the next chief minister of Kerala. His biggest challenge will be to transform himself into a truly democratic leader to fulfil the expectations of the people who have elected the LDF to power with a thumping majority in the elections.

Taking everyone along

His image is that of an iron-fisted party chief who brooks no dissent. During the 17-year period from 1998 to 2015 he was the state secretary of the CPM, he ensured that his writ went unquestioned in the party. He is more feared than loved, by his party men.

The only leader he could not bring to heel was the veteran VS Achuthanandan, a man as egoistic as him, if not more. VS kept on daring him, but he could not be ejected from the party, as Pinarayi had done with so many other ordinary mortals. Their bitter rivalry had been the central theme of CPM politics in the state for the last one-and-a-half decades. Often it had come close to splitting the party in Kerala.

As the Chief Minister, he will be heading a coalition government, in which the CPI and a couple of smaller parties too are members. Kerala's coalition politics, be it with the LDF or the UDF, had run on the principle of accommodation. Pinarayi's equations with the LDF partners had always been abrasive. Parties such as the RSP and the Janata Dal (U) left the coalition mainly on that count. He does not mince his words while snubbing junior partners in the coalition. His (and the CPM's) 'big brother ' posturing had often created discomfiture in the coalition.

Though an ideologue, Pinarayi is expected to be decisive and pragmatic in matters of governance

Pinarayi had a short stint as power minister between 1996 to 1998 in EK Nayanar's government ministry, before leaving the post to become the state secretary of the party. He had shown himself as a very good administrator. That was the time when Kerala desperately wanted to boost its installed power generation capacity. He ensured full government support to the National Thermal Power Corporation to ensure the commissioning of its thermal power project in Kayamkulam on schedule, removing all bottlenecks that came in the way, be it in the matter of land acquisition or labour issues.

More than a Communist leader weaned on trade unionism, it was the decisive and pragmatic administrator in him that was on display then. In retrospect, even the SNC Lavalin controversy that haunted him for nearly a decade beginning from 2005 could have been the result of his bulldozing ways to get things moving - he is said to have asked a top official who had recommended caution in going ahead with the SNC Lavalin proposal to "go, get your head examined".

Major issues

As Chief Minister, he will have a decent pool of talent in the Cabinet to draw upon. The LDF had drawn up an good poll manifesto. Their prime concern would be to strengthen the state finances so that the government would not be short on resources to fund its development agenda and welfare measures.

The public distribution system had remained neglected over the past 5 years. Safety of women had become a matter of deep concern for the people after the Jisha murder case.

Kerala is also turning into a highly polluted state with garbage piling up everywhere and its rivers and lakes becoming virtual cesspools. Only a mission mode approach can address this grave problem. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Somalia remark, which had provided much grist for the election campaign this time for both the LDF and the UDF to put the BJP on the defensive, will have to be examined dispassionately by the new government. Even in Kerala which has high human development indices, certain sections such as the tribal people are living in extremely pathetic conditions, far removed from the rush of development.

First published: 21 May 2016, 7:55 IST