When the Kerala Assembly opens on Monday, 23 January, for its Budget Session, will it witness scenes similar to the ones in Tamil Nadu, where Governor RN Ravi was heckled by members of the ruling DMK-led alliance?
The short answer is: No. But behind the the short answer is a longish explanation involving a rare camaraderie and some sweets from Kashmir. So here goes.
As per convention, the Finance Department, with the help of the General Administration Department, prepares the government’s policy statement for the Governor to read out in the Assembly. And while he can skip portions, he cannot add anything to the speech.
When the budget session was announced, the ruling dispensation was seething with anger over several decisions of Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, especially those relating to the higher education sector in the state, and leaders of the ruling LDF spoke of keeping the winter session alive till budget presentation so as to avoid the Governor’s customary address to the House. Aggravating matters, Raj Bhavan “sources” informed the media that Khan would not read any “malicious content” targeting him or the BJP government at the Centre.
The stage seemed set for another round of the bitter and ongoing battle between the two.
But South First learns none of this is going to happen. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently told his Cabinet colleagues that he does not want a repeat of the Tamil Nadu Assembly fiasco, following which the concerned departments were told to prepare a speech without anything that would make the Governor uncomfortable. The result is a 24-page document, just about half in size compared to previous years, with only mild criticism of the financial policies of the Centre.
Political observers believe the roots of this confrontation avoidance lie in a “secret” meeting Vijayan and Khan had after the latter had — quite surprisingly and without much fuss — agreed to Saji Cheriyan’s reinduction into the Cabinet.
As there was some feverish speculation about what transpired at the meeting, which had also followed Vijayan and Khan boycotting each other’s Christmas bashes, Raj Bhavan let it be known that the two had met just to exchange pleasantries and partake of some unique sweets that Khan had bought for the Vijayan family all the way from Kashmir.
So while the “sweetmeat diplomacy” appears to have worked, more astute political observers would point out that despite the many run-ins between the government and Raj Bhavan, Vijayan and Khan actually enjoy a level of comfort with each other that is rarely seen in other Opposition-ruled states.