Kerala CM’s Nava Kerala Sadas takes off amidst row over luxury bus and coercion

A major controversy revolves around the Kerala State RTC’s special Benz luxury coach, reportedly costing Rs 1.05 crore, designated for the travel of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other Ministers.
Nava Kerala Sadas inauguration
Nava Kerala Sadas inauguration
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In the midst of heated controversies, the Kerala government launched Nava Kerala Sadas, its month-long mass outreach programme, on Saturday, November 18 in Manjeshwar in Kasaragod district. The mass contact programme aims to address public grievances, with the Chief Minister personally listening to people's plaints. The agenda includes conventions, interactions with citizen representatives, and more. Each day, the programme will cover four assembly constituencies, culminating in Thiruvananthapuram on December 24.

The bus that is to ferry the Chief Minister and other Ministers across the state in connection with Nava Kerala Sadas has raked up a major controversy. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation's special Benz luxury coach reportedly costs Rs 1.05 crore. Critics argue that such expenses are unnecessary and place a burden on the state's finances.

During the course of Nava Kerala Sadas, five cabinet meetings will be held in five districts, attended by 120 government officials. The Opposition, led by VD Satheesan, allege that the entire initiative is a public relations campaign of the ruling CPI(M), financed by public funds. Satheesan insisted that the party should use its own funds for such activities.

BJP state president K Surendran views the mass outreach programme as a strategic move by the CPI(M) in anticipation of the upcoming elections.

Transport Minister Antony Raju denied the critics’ allegations, stating that a single bus has been arranged for all Ministers in order to reduce costs and minimise inconvenience to the public. He emphasised that the bus, initially considered a luxury, will be repurposed for budget tourism after the programme concludes.

CPI(M) leader AK Balan supported this stance, suggesting that the bus could be resold at a higher price or preserved as a museum piece, making it a profitable venture.

The controversies surrounding Nava Kerala Sadas extend beyond the luxury bus.

Allegations of coercion have also emerged, such as panchayats pressuring Kudumbasree members and their staff to participate in the programme. Similar allegations regarding  government officers being forced to undertake Nava Kerala Sadas duties have also surfaced, adding fuel to the already contentious situation.

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