The open sparring in the UDF over the lease of estates in Nelliampathy and the controversy over regularisation of conversion paddy fields have dented the image of ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.
The Government Chief Whip P. C. George took cudgels against Forest Minister K. B. Ganesh Kumar for initiating steps for takeover of estates over expiry of lease or violation of lease conditions including sale or conversion of the estates. Mr. George’s contention is that the Forest Department is acting against farmers, meaning the estate owners.
Estate owners have been trying every trick in the book to prevent reversion of their estates. They have also gained support of a section of the UDF in favour of their efforts to retain the leases. However, a section within the UDF is opposed to it. In fact, there was a section favouring the estate owners in the previous LDF government also. However, the CPI which was in charge of the Forest portfolio had favoured take over. After the UDF government came to power, interested groups were working for change of policy and that yielded some results.
The fight in the UDF over the issue would not die down easily as much is at stake.
Similar is the situation on the question of reclamation and conversion of wet lands and paddy fields. Those attempting large scale conversions had received the support of a section of the previous government. Now, they were getting almost full support from the Cabinet with it approving a proposal to regularize pre-2005 conversions. This would have helped realtors and investors in resorts and other projects. However, opposition is growing in the UDF with V. M. Sudheeran and others openly speaking against the decision. What they are pointing at is obvious.
These controversies are accentuating dormant internal schisms in the front and could even threaten the cohesion of the government.