Thiruvananthapuram: Congress's Kerala unit president VM Sudheeran has attacked the state government for an order that allows acceptance of land tax from a private company at a time when the estate in question is embroiled in a legal dispute.
The order allowing acceptance of tax from Karuna Estate for an 833-acre estate in Palakkad district whose ownership is disputed would be perceived as corrupt and would affect the party's prospects in the assembly elections this year, Sudheeran said at a meeting of the top leadership of the party on Wednesday.
Sudheeran's criticism of his own party, which leads the United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala, has exposed the fissures within the party ahead of assembly elections on 16 May.
While Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, whose department is concerned with the issue, has defended himself, some ministers of the Congress as well as those belonging to other constituents of UDF told Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that Sudheeran seemed to be behaving like an Opposition leader.
Since being appointed as president of Kerala unit of Congress by party vice president Rahul Gandhi two years ago, Sudheeran has been taking tough positions against his own government on many issues, riling, in particular, Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala – both of whom represent the factions opposed to him.
Sudheeran's criticism was instrumental last week in the revocation by the state government of its earlier order to use large tracts of paddy fields and backwaters for tourism and health projects in Kottayam and Kochi districts.
The state government had issued an order for reclamation of 376 acres in Kottayam and 87 acres in Kochi a few days before the poll notification was issued.
Sudheeran had also accused the Chandy government of favouring the liquor industry by diluting its own policy – the issue became 'bar bribery scandal' embroiling the government in charges of corruption.
The state government had not been heeding the party's stand, Sudheeran said on Wednesday while attacking revenue minister Prakash on the issue of the land tax.
"Bureaucracy does take decisions, but it's the political leadership that has to provide explanations," he said.
The opposing camps within Congress believe Sudheeran’s trenchant criticism of the government on various issues would embarrass the party in the polls.
Meanwhile, Revenue Minister Prakash expressed his feelings on his Facebook page where he said that there has been no violation in what his department has done to the estate owner.
Now all eyes are on the party high command on whether they will ask Sudheeran to contest the polls, alongside Chandy and Chennithala.