Kozhikode: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala has been bracing with crisis, within the party and the alliance. Shortly after settling down issues related to Kerala Congress (Mani), the UDF is facing a fresh setback with two prominent Congress leaders -- Benny Behanan and K Muraleedharan -- who are also Members of Parliament, resigning from their respective positions in the party.
Benny Behanan resigned on Sunday from the post of convener of the UDF. Shortly after his resignation, K Muraleedharan, who held the post of chairman of media campaign committee of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), also resigned from his post.
Expressing his displeasure over the working of KPCC, Muraleedharan told the media that there were no internal discussions in party on certain issues and he was getting information about party decisions from the media.
Apart for these developments, the UDF on Monday announced that it had decided to halt mass demonstrations against the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. After strong criticism for not maintaining COVID-19 protocol during the mass protests and more than a dozen of its leaders testing positive, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala said the decision to call of the protests was taken after a discussion with UDF allies.
Chennithala, however, said that even though mass agitations would be discontinued for the time being, protests would continue adhering to strict COVID-19 protocol.
"In view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state, the UDF has decided to halt mass agitations against the state government," Chennithala said during a Raj Bhavan march and protest organised by the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) against the new farm laws.
Read more: Are Some Senior Congress MPs from Kerala Planning to Return to State Politics?
Attacking the state government, Chennithala claimed the health department had miserably failed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. "The government has miserably failed in tackling the pandemic due to mismanagement. Now don't blame us and our protests. We are stopping it from today," he said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier lashed out at the Opposition and asked the political parties to "behave responsibly."
The Opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party have been staging widespread protests against the state government over various issues related to the recent gold smuggling case involving diplomatic baggage through Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
The protests drew criticism from the state government and public as the agitators failed to follow any COVID-19 protocol amid a spike in cases.
For the initial six months, the health department had successfully curtailed the spread of COVID-19, and had been praised for their efforts. But, after that the Opposition parties in the state launched protests against the state government.
The first protest was against the state government’s deal with data company, Sprinkler. Later, the Opposition failed to prove their allegations and also faced a legal setback. This was followed by UDF and BJP launching a protest against the state government over the gold smuggling case. They also resorted to ‘violent’ demonstrations in the state capital after a short circuit incident, following which several police personnel had tested COVID positive.
September 12 onwards, UDF and BJP had intensified their protests against the state government, without following any of the protocols of the health department.
However, sensing that public sentiment was going against them for staging mass protests at the time of COVID-19, they relented. Incidentally, Left parties, trade unions, farmers organisations, youth and student organisations have also been protesting against various anti-farmer, anti-worker policies of the BJP-led Central government. But these protests are not mass gatherings keeping the pandemic situation in mind, said sources in the Left parties.
Read more: Opposition Youth Leaders Who Headed Protests in Kerala Test Covid-19 Positive; Cops under Quarantine
“At Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Students’ Union, student wing of Congress, state president, NSUI national Coordinator, KSU district president etc have tested positive. Since they have led the protests, the contact list is long and many from the police force are also in quarantine,” MB Rajesh, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and a former MP, said in a discussion.
“While in Kollam district, the Youth Congress state general secretary, district Congress Committee secretary and KSU state secretary who led the protests have tested positive. 57 police personals who were on duty during the protests have also tested positive. Alappuzha youth Congress president has also been tested positive and more than 30 police personals are in quarantine after coming contact with this person,” said Rajesh.
When it comes to Palakkad district, BJP’s district president who led the protests of BJP outfits there had tested positive. Moreover, BJP had mobilised 46 persons from Valiyangadi which was a containment zone. Later the area had reported many cases and became a cluster,” Rajesh added.
If look at the number of active Covid-19 cases on September 12- the day on which the UDF and BJP had intensified mass protests which often turned violent- was 28,805. But over two weeks down the calendar, the number of active cases has jumped to 57,879 as of September 28.
On September 27, the state had reported 7,445 new cases, the highest ever single day spike in the state.
With these spike in the number of cases, the UDF had announced that they are halting mass protests.
(With Inputs from PTI)