The government has itself to blame for the massive embarrassment it has had to face in the matter. With a bit of care and greater transparency, the Pinarayi Vijayan government could have spared itself the blushes in the matter.

The chief minister said the decision has been taken to end a controversy at a time when the state needs to give undivided attention to the stupendous task of post-flood rehabilitation and reconstruction programme.

But the public perception is entirely different. And, politics is all about perceptions. It can be said with certainty that the government has lost the perception battle, to the delight of the opposition.

True, the government has stoutly defended its decision, saying that it had gone by rules and procedures in the matter and there was no hanky panky. But the manner in which the government handled the whole issue had created serious misgivings in the minds of the people at large.

What strengthened the doubts was the fact the sensitive issue was not discussed either in the CPI(M) state secretariat or in the LDF State Committee. If only the government had brought the issue before the LDF State Committee and the Cabinet, the controversy and the subsequent loss of face could have been avoided. In other words, it was a self-goal.

The total isolation of the chief minister and the excise minister in the matter can be gauged from the fact that none of the top CPI(M) leaders deemed it necessary to publicly defend the duo. In fact, the sudden reversal of the government’s stand was the result of the strong stand taken by the CPI(M) State Secretariat. The excise minister was subjected to severe criticism for bungling badly on the issue.

What excited the secretariat’s anger was the failure of the excise minister to discuss the issue first in the secretariat and then the LDF State Committee as per the practice followed by LDF governments.

Although excise minister T P Ramakrishnan had to face the brunt of the secretariat’s anger, the loss of face is a personal setback for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself. One of the blenders granted licence is said to be close to the Vijayan family.

Significantly, CPI(M)’s principal ally, the CPI also made no secret of its displeasure over the hasty manner in which the decision was taken. CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran had remarked that his party was unaware of the decision to approve the setting up of the breweries and the bottling plant. Kanam also had a dig at the CM and the excise minister saying that the government should learn appropriate lessons from the episode.

The million dollar question is: Will it?

No wonder, a jubilant opposition is ‘celebrating’ its victory in cornering the government on the issue. It is a booster dose for Congress, especially Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, who took up the issue, putting relentless pressure on the government. And the outcome represents a huge personal victory for Ramesh. Needless to say, the victory will strengthen his position within the party vis-à-vis other rivals, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy. With this victory under his belt, Ramesh has erased the impression of being an ineffective opposition leader. (IPA Service)