VS prepares for another Munnar drive, parties split down the middle

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jan 28 2010, 03:25am hrs
The Kerala High Court directive to flush out the encroachers from the hill station of Munnar has emerged as a strong point of contention among political parties here.

Armed with last weeks High Court order that sought stringent action against the encroachers, chief minister VS Achuthanandan had declared that the government would crack the whip on all illegal land dealings. As his government will complete its fourth year this May, Achuthanandan sees Munnar as an opportunity to bolster his sagging image.

The CPI, which handles the revenue and forest departments in the CPI(M)-led government, on Monday rushed in-principle support to the chief minister to evict the encroachers. Its state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan said the government should go ahead with the move to drive away the encroachers, disregarding the protest from the local leaderships of political parties. During the previous eviction drive in 2007, the CPI had jettisoned the chief ministers proposal under duress from the official faction of the CPI(M).

On the other side, CPI(M) leaders in Munnar had warned that the party would lead a mass agitation against any move to pull down the illegally constructed resorts and throw away the marginal farmers from the land. The CPI(M) expects that various religious groups, especially the local Catholic church, would come out against any move to evict the encroachers. The church, too, faces strong charges of encroachment in several parts of Idukki district.

The Congress, the leading Opposition party, is a divided house on the issue. Although the local MP, PT Thomas, talks tough on encroachment, another section of leaders is treading softly on the issue.