A rare gesture by the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala of extending aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan has found the Opposition charging it with indulging in vote-bank politics ahead of local body elections next month.
State Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan announced that his government would gift Rs 5 crore to Pakistan to help its relief and rehabilitation measures. The aid was announced at a time when Islamabad reluctantly accepted the central government’s offer of assistance.
Commenting on a step rarely taken by a state government, state Education and Culture Minister M.A. Baby said, “It is real camaraderie. It is not a hasty decision either. We have consulted the External Affairs Ministry and others before announcing this.”
Achuthanandan had while announcing the decision, said on Monday, “You might have seen shocking pictures appearing in the media. Lakhs of people are suffering there. So, we decided to extend some help.” But the BJP sees a political motive in this gesture.
“Many tragedies have taken place in the world in the recent past. But we never came across such largesse from the state government earlier. It is nothing but cheap politics, eyeing minority votes,” BJP state president V. Muraleedharan told HT.
Defending the decision, Baby said, “Unlike the BJP and Congress governments, we never appease the minority and majority communities. In the recent case of a lecturer’s hand being chopped off by Muslim fundamentalists, we took appropriate action by setting up a special team to conduct a probe and arrested several activists of the Popular Front of India.”
The decision to extend aid to Pakistan was taken at a hurriedly convened cabinet meeting on Monday, a day before the announcement of local body elections in Kerala on October 23 and October 25.
Local body elections are considered the semi-finals before the assembly elections, which is due in May. Since decentralisation of power is quite effective in the state, cadre-based parties attach a lot of importance to local body elections in the southern state.