The 17-member cabinet, formed by NGOs and individuals with no links to political parties, is led by a woman CM and aims to work with the government for the people.

For stronger governance Keralas first Shadow Cabinet to track every ministers work
news Governance Monday, April 30, 2018 - 14:20

In the first such civil society initiative in Kerala, a group of NGOs and individuals have come together to form a ‘Shadow Cabinet’ for the state. The 17-member cabinet with a woman CM will monitor the functioning of the government and propose suggestions for better governance. The cabinet will work as a bridge between the public and the ruling government. 

Thrissur-based lawyer Asha Unnithan was sworn in as the shadow Chief Minister, along with Jayshree Chantharath (shadow Minister for Revenue), Anil E P (Finance), Magline Philomina (Fisheries), Babu Paul (Tourism, Corporation and Dewasom), Mini K (SC-ST and Law), John P T (Agriculture), Silvi Sunil (Transport), Prem Kumar T R (Water Resource), Lekha Kavalam (Forest), Surendra P N (Health and Social Justice), Adina Sunder (PWD), Major Anish (Industries), Faisal Faizu (Civil Supplies), S Joseph (LSG), Vincent Maliackal (Excise) and Anil Jose (Education).

Representatives of the shadow cabinet say they want to roll out an inclusive cabinet. The cabinet has 9 women ministers, one transgender person and a minister who is differently-abled. 

For stronger governance

The concept of ‘shadow cabinets’ has been used by civil society groups and opposition parties in several countries including Australia and Canada. In India, a shadow cabinet was formed in Maharashtra in 2005, jointly by the BJP and Shiv Sena. A similar cabinet was also formed in 2014 in Madhya Pradesh by the Congress, and in Goa in 2015 by AAP and GenNext NGO.

Speaking to TNM, shadow CM Asha said that they are a volunteer organisation and not part of any political party.

"Since November, we have organised 30 workshops for the members. We have more than 90 people in the group. After giving training and seminars, we chose the ministers based on merit,” Asha said.

“We will organise district level conventions so that our ministers can interact with the people and know their issues. We will gauge their prime concerns and study their issues, so that we can effectively suggest measures to the government, to solve them. The shadow cabinet is not against the government but is a means to strengthen the government in a democratic way," Asha added. 

She said that it was the absence of a strong opposition in the state that paved way for the formation of a shadow cabinet. 

"In the present scenario, a strong opposition is absent in the state. There is hardly any difference between the ruling party and the opposition. We don't yet know how this initiative will be received, but we are not trying to challenge the government or have a fight with them but help the government to strengthen democracy. And we are not going to give empty suggestions, but those suggestions will be concrete ones, based on thorough study," Asha explained. 

Setting the right priorities

Every minister will have a shadow minister, who closely follows the day-to-day functioning and look into the policies and schemes adopted by the minister.  Every shadow minister has a team of at least five people, who form the support group. 

The shadow cabinet has an office based in Ernakulam, which they call the secretariat.  While the youngest shadow minister is in her 20s, the oldest minister is in his sixties. Organisations such as the Gandhian Study Centre, Voters Alliance, Moozhikulam Sala, Human Wellness Study Centre, Gandhian Collective and Keraliyam have extended their support to the shadow cabinet. 

The newly-formed shadow cabinet held its first meeting on Sunday. Meetings will be held every second Saturday and Sunday of a month. Primarily, the shadow cabinet's work will concentrate on issues related to the agricultural sector and the water department. 

"We lack a strong agriculture policy. Second, unfortunately our government is making revenue through sale of liquor, which is in no way intended at the welfare of the people. It is just wrong that a government runs on the revenue from liquor sales,” she says.

Asha believes that their shadow cabinet will have more credibility among people, compared to a shadow cabinet formed by a political party, since they are not here to garner votes. The functioning of the cabinet will be purely using funds collected from the public. 

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