News Brief

Rift In Kerala’s Ruling Left Front Over Covid-19 Data Sharing, Corruption Case Against Muslim League MLA

M R Subramani

Apr 21, 2020, 01:24 PM | Updated 04:17 PM IST

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 
  • The ruling coalition in Kerala is in trouble with the main partner and the opposition calling out the government over Covid-19 data sharing, and timing of the action against IUML legislator.
  • Differences have cropped up in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala over the government’s deal with a US firm to share coronavirus (Covid-19) data and the filing of a first information report (FIR) against Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) legislator K M Shaji.

    Communist Party of India (CPI), the main partner of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), in the LDF government in Kerala has objected to the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet not discussing the deal on coronavirus data with US-based Sprinklr.

    In an editorial in its official journal Janayugam, the CPI attacked the Vijayan government indirectly, saying data security is important for India with capitalist forces eyeing countries such as India.

    Malayalam daily Kerala Kaumudi quoted the official journal as saying:

    Companies build their kingdom on data and it is worrisome to know that cases of misuse of data are many. Despite the fact that stealing of data is a usual thing, the data is not getting due importance. The misuse of data for financial and political benefits is already part of contemporary history. Collection of data will have a big say in controlling the dynamics of politics.

    However, as an afterthought, CPI leaders said the party was not making public its response despite taking exception to the deal.

    The Vijayan government began using the services of Sprinklr, a US firm founded by Ragi Thomas hailing from Mavelikkara in Kerala’s Alappuzha district.

    The US firm’s citizen experience management platform is used to record data on Covid-19 patients and suspects in the state.

    The opposition-led United Democratic Front (UDF), particularly senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, has raised a hue and cry over the deal.

    Things have turned from bad to worse for the CPI-M-led government after it voluntarily released letters and papers on the deal. The release of the letters and papers have only compounded the Vijayan government’s misery.

    Yesterday (20 April), the LDF government was embarrassed further with reports alleging that US multinational pharma major Pfizer had got access to Kerala’s coronavirus data.

    The Congress is now demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Vijayan besides a Central Bureau of Investigation probe. The CPI joining the issue with its ruling partner on the deal has further embarrassed the CPI-M.

    The CPI is also of the view that the LDF government’s timing of taking action against IUML’s Shaji is awry. The action against the IUML member of the state legislator has given further impetus to the opposition attack against the LDF, CPI leaders feel.

    On 18 April, Kerala’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) submitted an FIR against the IUML MLA on charges of having accepted Rs 25 lakh as bribe from a school at Azhikode in Kannur district.

    The money was allegedly received by Shaji for sanctioning plus two course in the school in 2014. A local IUML leader had complained to the party’s state committee alleging irregularities in the sanctioning of the course.

    Based on this complaint, Kannur block panchayat president filed a complained with Vijayan in 2017, leading to the VACB probe.

    These two incidents had wiped off the credit the LDF government got for tackling the spread of coronavirus in the state, CPI leaders feel.

    Political observers feel the CPI will likely not take an official stand against these two issues. Nor is it expected to try and take advantage of the controversies with the CPI-M.

    However, the CPI has discreetly raised a few questions on both issues, starting from the action against IUML MLA to the government’s decision on data sharing going against the Left parties’ policy on the safety of data.

    These issues have cropped up at a time when coronavirus cases in the state have decreased sharply. Over the last one week, Kerala has been reporting less than 10 positive cases daily.

    So far, 408 have tested positive for Covid-19 with three deaths being reported.

    M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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