Antony’s wake-up call for Kerala govt

Defence Minister A K Antony's plain speaking that he does not have the confidence to bring new investments to his home state has hit the Congress government exactly two months after its global investors meet. Antony's salvo came during the inauguration of a new unit of missile firm BrahMos Aerospace, a joint defence venture of India and Russia.

It was among the defence projects Antony brought to Kerala during CPM rule. Antony has not allotted any new project to the state since his own party's government assumed power in May 2011.

Antony said that he had discussions with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and industries minister P K Kunhalikutty regarding new projects, but they had not approached him with any proposal. Instead, the refrain was "will see", he said.

At the same time, he praised former chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and his industries minister Elamaram Kareem for their whole-hearted support to get more defence establishments to Kerala.

Apparently, Antony is annoyed at the delay in clearing the hurdles for NIRDESH, a defence shipbuilding unit near Kozhikode. The foundation for the project was laid at the fag end of the CPM government but it has since been in a limbo due to a delay by the present government in rehabilitating 150-odd families.

Also, extremist Muslim elements have been opposing the project at Chaliyam, not far from Marad, which has been hit by communal riots in the past. The IUML, which has the industries portfolio, is also not keen as it shares the sentiments of the local Muslim fishermen.

Antony's statement also has a larger political fallout in that it focuses on what is seen as the poor performance of Chandy's government. Eighteen months on, the government is seen as not having any major achievement to showcase. Wrangling among ministers over policies and projects has become common, undermining the collective responsibility of the government. Recently, cabinet decisions were modified by the political leadership and there is now talk of a cabinet reshuffle.

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