T Satisan Talappilli, Kerala
USUALLY media persons and observers maintain that it is very difficult to predict what Defence Minister AK Antony thinks and means when he speaks something. No doubt, he is always utmost careful before he opens up. This assumption was once again proved the other day in Kerala’s capital city. He said that there is some sort of clouds in Kerala’s industrial atmosphere and added that he was not bold enough to bring defence ministry’s industries to Kerala. This revelation came while inaugurating the missile unit of Brahmos Aerospace in Thiruvananthapuram.
He recalled that the ground work for this unit was completed during the previous CPM-led LDF (Left Democratic Front) regime of VS Achuthanandan, thanks to the industry friendly approach of then industries minister and CPM leader Elamaram Kareem. Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan also gave him good support and he could bring several defence-oriented projects to Kerala during the LDF regime from 2006 to 2011. Antony went to the extent of saying that he could not find proper words to praise the co-operation extended by Kareem. Then he came to the crux. Things are different in Kerala during the last couple of years (Congress-led United Democratic Front or UDF regime, under former Antony lieutenant Oommen Chandy, took over in May 2011). He said that Kerala’s trade union culture does not conform to the working style of defence ministry. He also added that, the atmosphere within defence ministry is by and large against bringing projects to Kerala, Now, if he does not get support from Kerala he will be blamed for the same.. He wondered how industries flourish in the state, if this is the ground situation. All these was said in the presence of Chief Minister Ommen Chandy, the Industries Minister and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) supremo P.K. Kunjalikkutty and few other ministers and on top of all the former minister Elamaram Kareem !!!
This statement stirred a hornet’s nest in UDF and Congress politics. Kunjalikkutty could not digest it owing to two reasons. He is the Industries Minister, and IUML being the second largest party in the UDF apparatus he could only hear niceties (and not blames) from the number two man in the Government of India. Kunjalikkutty and the Chief Minister were at pains to explain to the public and media that Antony was not blaming the UDF. CM told that Antony was referring to the labour problems in the project.
Congress’s Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) had dissolved its union in Brahmos once it was made clear that it was a defence ministry institution. INTUC state president told the media that his organization does not have any unit in Brahmos Aerospace. All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), belonging to CPI, maintains that trade union is the right of the labour force and so they would not dissolve their union.
However, Aryadan Mohammed, veteran Congress leader and minister for power in Kerala said that he was too small a leader to reply to a great leader like Antony ! IUML leader E.T. Mohammed Basheer MP did not mince his words, and expressed his unhappiness. K.M. Mani, the leader of Kerala Congress (M), the second largest partner of Congress, after IUML, told the media that he does not agree to Antony’s views and added that Kerala is investment friendly. Home Minister and Ommen Chandy’s conscience keeper Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan was sweating while answering the media.
Political observers immediately found out the spirit behind Antony’s tears. Hardly fourty eight hours before this Kerala programme Antony was given charge of the AICC sub committee responsible for organizing alliance partners for UPA-III in the next parliamentary election. This observation was vindicated when CPM PB member Sitaram Yechury found ‘an alliance partner in Antony’.
Twenty four hours later, Antony, Oommen Chandy, Kunjalikkutty and Elamaram Kareem again shared the dais in Kasargode district for the inauguration of Seethamgoli Hindusthan Aeronautics Limited Strategic Electronic Factory in Seethamgoli. In this function the defence minister made some soothing treatment (thanks to the pressure from Congress and UDF leaders in the state). He also added that he was expressing the anxiety of defence ministry in Thiruvananthapuram. He said that politics should be kept aloof when the question of development and progress arises. He observed that other states are following this golden doctrine. He also made it a point to give a pat on Kunjalikkutty. Land for Seethamgoli project was made available as UDF government acquired the same for KINFRA, a government of Kerala agency for infrastructure development. In another words, Antony did not go back on his words; but a soft pat gave a rope for the UDF leaders to escape from the deep hole .
Now the political observers are all smiles : Their observation was proved right. Antony was extending an Olive branch to Left Front at the national level. An advance movement for imminent parliament elections. Yes, Prakash Karat expressed his satisfaction for AK Antony’s “certificate” for LDF’s good governance !