Sparks are expected to fly in the final session of the present Kerala Assembly commencing on Friday with the opposition Congress-led UDF set to attack the CPI(M)-led Left Front government on various issues including corruption allegations. Adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols, the Assembly session will commence with the customary address by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.
The Assembly had recently met for a one-day special session on December 31 and passed a unanimous resolution seeking scrapping of the three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre. Though the Governor had at first turned down the Left government's plea to convene the House on December 23 for discussing the farm laws, against which farmers have been agitating on Delhi borders for over a month, the session was held on December 31 after the clarifications sought by him were furnished.
The last budget of the CPI(M)-led LDF government, which would be vote on account, will be presented by Finance Minister Thomas Isaac on January 15. The session will conclude on January 28.
The LDF government, which is hoping to break the jinx and ride back to power for a second term, is expected to line up new proposals and projects for the state's development, launch people-friendly schemes, besides announcing sops for various sections with an eye on the assembly elections due by April-May this year. The opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) will ensure that the final session will not be a cakewalk for the LDF and will hit out at the government on various issues, including the gold smuggling case in which M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary of Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, now under suspension, is among the accused.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the UDF will "expose" the government in this last session. "This is the most corrupt government", he said.
Besides the gold smuggling case, irregularities in the Life Mission project at Wadakancherry are among the various corruption allegations which are likely to be raised by the opposition, which has already served a notice seeking removal of the Speaker, P Sreeramakrishnan after his name cropped up in the smuggling case. Assembly sources said all arrangements have been made for the legislators to undergo antigen testing from 7 AM at the Assembly premises on January 8, 11 and 18.
The members, who will be provided N-95 masks and gloves, will undergo thermal scanning before entering the House.
'Prior Permission Required'
Meanwhile, Sreeramakrishnan said his prior permission was required for the Customs Department to interrogate his assistant private secretary in connection with the dollar smuggling case but maintained that he would not create hurdles in any investigation. Quoting the Assembly Rules of Procedure, he said the Speaker's nod was required to take any legal action against any person within the Legislative Assembly complex.
Sreeramakrishnan also justified the recent letter sent by Assembly Secretary SV Unnikrishnan Nair to the Customs Department stating the Speaker's consent was required for quizzing someone who comes under the Assembly Secretariat.
The Speaker's justification came a day after the media reported that the assembly secretary had sent the letter to the Customs following the agency issuing a notice to his assistant private secretary K Ayyappan to appear for questioning.
He further said there would be appropriate action in the UDF's notice seeking his removal from the constitutional post in the wake of the allegations against him. "As per the rules, Speaker's permission was required to take any legal action against any person within the Legislative Assembly complex. Everything is done in the name of law. So, the Secretary just informed (the customs) that everything should be done in accordance with the Rules of procedures of the House," he said.
Sreeramakrishnan said he doesn't think that central agencies would question him. "I am fully confident that there was no lapse from my side. So I have no anxiety," the Speaker said, adding that he would end his political career if it was proved that he had accepted even one rupee as bribe from anyone.
However, Chennithala said the Speaker was misinterpreting the Assembly rules and trying to sabotage the inquiry. There was an earlier ruling in the Kerala Assembly itself that no others would get the constitutional protection enjoyed by the members of the House, he said.
"It is a serious matter that the Speaker and his Office are trying to obstruct the investigation of a heinous crime such as dollar smuggling," Chennithala added.