Despite a massive electoral mandate, new Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan may very well be faced with a bumpy ride ahead.
Vijayan seems to have fended off his first political challenge by sidelining party veteran – and rival -- VS Achuthanandan. Previously too, in 2006, when Achuthanandan was CM, Vijayan put him in a spot by filling his cabinet with his own supporters. Their bitter rivalry has been the central theme of left politics in the state for almost two decades. In the current fracas, however, judging by his nature, Achuthanandan may not go down without a fight.
The second – and perhaps the biggest -- hurdle Vijayan may face is his alleged involvement in the SNC Lavalin case.
In 1996, when he was power minister in the Nayanar ministry, the state was inked an agreement with Canadian power giant SNC Lavalin to overhaul five hydel projects. The state reportedly lost Rs 260 crore in the deal. Though the CBI court acquired him in the case, the state government later filed an appeal in the high court. The hearing for the case is next month.
Vijayan may further be inconvenienced by the fact that state coffers are almost empty and the opposition BJP is breathing down his neck over recurring political violence in the state.
Post-elections, Kerala witnessed two political murders: that of a CPI(M) worker and a BJP worker. Upset, the BJP central leadership moved the President, seeking his intervention in the state’s affairs. Union minister Ravisankar Prasad even went on record saying that his party was in power in 14 states, indicating strongly that the Centre would not brook political intolerance.
The Kannur politician -- the party’s longest-serving state secretary (1998- 2015) -- is said to be more feared than loved by supporters. As a state secretary, his dealings with alliance partners were seen as aggressive, with two constituents of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) – RSP and JD(U) – deserting the camp. It would seem now that he has some work to do to rid himself of the image of an iron-fisted leader. However, known for his administrative skills and pragmatic approach, the leader is likely to overcome all hurdles, swear political experts.