Thiruvananthapuram | The Congress-led UDF on Thursday criticised the Kerala Governor's swift conclusion of the government's customary policy address in the House as a "mockery" and an "insult to the Assembly," while the BJP defended it as a response to the Left front's attempt to blame the Centre.
The Left government sought to downplay the situation by saying that Governor Arif Mohammed Khan correctly discharged his Constitutional duty and that the policy address can be concluded in this manner if he was facing some difficulties.
The BJP said that the Governor delivered a blow to the Left government's attempt to blame the Centre for all the problems, including the financial distress, faced by the state.
On the other hand, the opposition UDF said that reading out only the last paragraph of the policy address amounted to "contempt" towards the Assembly.
"It was also contempt and neglect towards the Constitutional directives and rules of the Assembly. We are indicating our strong protest against the same.
"It was a pitiful ending to the political drama of the state government and the Governor," Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Assembly V D Satheesan told the media after the conclusion of the customary policy address.
Satheesan said that other than mentioning a few financial issues, there was no proper criticism of the Central government in the policy address.
He also lashed out at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan by alleging that the protest planned by the Left front against the Centre in Delhi was turned into a conference by the Marxist veteran out of fear of the Central agencies and their investigations.
"This is the pathetic situation in which they (Left front) are," the LoP said.
He said that the opposition expected serious policy initiatives with regard to problems being faced by the state in the general and higher education, agriculture, health and finance sectors.
"But there was nothing. The government is blind. It is in the dark on how to move forward. There has never been such a sub-standard and hollow policy address in the entire history of Kerala," he said.
Deputy LoP P K Kunhalikutty and senior Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan too spoke to the media along similar lines.
They both said that what transpired in the House was a mockery of the Assembly and democracy.
Kunhalikutty, the national general secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) said they were all "surprised" by how quickly, within five minutes, the entire thing ended.
"We saw the Governor come and then saw him leave like a rocket. He did not even look at us (opposition) while leaving. It actually amounted to an insult to the Assembly. We do not approve of such conduct," the IUML leader said.
He also said that Governors in other states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Telangana were behaving in a similar manner.
The IUML leader said that the Left government was responsible for the situation which amounted to an insult to the administration and also the Assembly.
BJP state president K Surendran, however, threw his weight behind the Governor saying that Khan's actions were a setback for the state government's move to blame the Centre for problems faced by Kerala.
He claimed that baseless statements were incorporated in the policy address to hide the incompetence of the state government and to blame the Centre.
"The Governor indicated his displeasure towards the state's stand. No government in the history of Kerala has suffered such an embarrassment," he said.
He also rejected Satheesan's claim that there was no proper criticism against the Centre in the policy document.
"It is full of criticism against the Centre," Surendran said.
He also accused the state government of not providing to the people the benefits received from the Centre under various welfare schemes and alleged that this was the reason for poor people dying by suicide in Kerala.
Surendran too hit out at the CM by saying that when advising people against being greedy, Vijayan and his family should follow that first.
Meanwhile, state Law and Industries Minister P Rajeev said that the Governor "discharged his Constitutional duty".
"He approved the policy address prepared by the Cabinet. Reading the first and last para of the address also makes it part of the House records. It can be read like that too. It is equivalent to reading the whole thing," the minister said.
Rajeev said the government does not know why Khan swiftly concluded the address.
"We do not know whether he did not read it fully due to some difficulty or some other problem. But he has rightly discharged his Constitutional duty," the minister said.
State Culture Minister Saji Cheriyan also said that a policy address can be concluded like this if the Governor was facing some health issues.
In an unprecedented move which also indicated his displeasure with the ruling Left front in the state, Khan quickly concluded the government's customary policy address in the Assembly by only reading out its last paragraph out of a total of 136.
Khan, who reached the Assembly at around 9 am, concluded the policy address before 9.02 am and left the House by 9.04 am.
Khan and the Left government have been at loggerheads over several issues, primarily about the functioning of universities in the state and his non-signing of certain bills passed by the Assembly.
It also resulted in his facing widespread protests across the state from the CPI(M), its youth wing -- Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) -- and its student outfit -- Students Federation of India (SFI).