Pinarayi Vijayan's marathon speech stymies opposition no-confidence motion in Kerala

Published : August 25, 2020 07:19 IST

Kerala Chief MInister Pinarayi Vijayan voting in the Rajya Sabha election on August 24. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A no-confidence motion against the State government moved by the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala was defeated by 87 to 40 votes at the end of a marathon 11-hour session of the Assembly on August 24.

The Assembly witnessed tumultuous scenes at the end of the discussion on the no-confidence motion, which the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan turned entirely to the advantage of the Left Democratic Front government with a speech lasting over a record 3.45 hours detailing the achievements of his government.

The speech which ended only by around 9:15 p.m. took the opposition benches by surprise and eventually led to weary opposition MLAs ignoring COVID-19 norms to enter the well of the Assembly and shout slogans for nearly an hour in a bid to curtail the Chief Minister’s speech.

Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala later said it was “merely a long speech that sounded more like the Governor’s address or a policy address which however failed to provide a proper response to over eight allegations which the opposition had raised”.

The no-confidence motion was moved by senior Congress leader V.D. Satheesan in the context of a string of allegations the opposition had raised in the past months, which included those linked to the gold smuggling case; the Life Mission, the government’s flagship housing programme; and the appointment of consultancies for several government projects.

The CPI(M)-led LDF has 93 members now in the 140-member State Assembly and the UDF 43. The BJP’s lone MLA (former Union Minister) O. Rajagopal had announced he would abstain from voting.

Significantly for the UDF, two members of the dissident Kerala Congress faction led by Jose K. Mani also did not participate in the voting, a sign of intense dissension within the Kerala Congress group earlier led by veteran leader K.M. Mani. A prominent UDF partner, the Kerala Congress, now led by another veteran leader P.J. Joseph has a total strength of five MLAs, after K.M. Mani’s seat, Pala, was won by the LDF after his death.

The two MLAs of the Jose K. Mani faction did not also vote for the UDF candidate in the by-election to the Rajya Sabha seat held earlier in the day in the Assembly. The ruling Front candidate and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) State president M.V. Shreyams Kumar won the election.

The Congress party’s Lal Varghese Kalpakavadi, the UDF candidate, got 41 votes, while Shreyams Kumar won 88 votes. One of the votes cast (of independent MLA P.C. George) was found invalid.

The Rajya Sabha seat fell vacant following the death of veteran LJD leader (and Shreyams Kumar’s father) M.P. Veerendra Kumar, on May 28.

Shreyams Kumar, who had been an MLA twice, is the Managing Director of the Mathrubhumi newspaper group. He will continue as a Rajya Sabha member till April 2, 2022, when Veerendrakumar’s tenure was to have ended.

The one-day session of the Assembly to pass the Finance Bill was originally planned for July 27, but had been postponed till now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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