Lakshadweep issue snowballing into political row

Congress and CPI(M) leaders spreading misinformation about new proposals for the union territory: BJP

A slew of purported reforms brought about by Lakshadweep’s newly-appointed Administrator Praful Patel has acquired a political dimension with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including its national vice-president A.P. Abdullakutty who is in charge of Lakshadweep taking on Congress and CPI (M) leaders for spreading ‘misinformation’ about the new proposals in the Union Territory.

The issue appears to be snowballing into a political row against the background of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members representing both the Congress and the CPI (M) seeking President Ramnath Kovind’s intervention to recall the Lakshadweep Administrator.

Right from the beginning of his appointment, Mr. Patel, brought changes in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for relaxing the COVID-19 induced lockdown in the archipelago in the Arabian sea. That many felt increased the number of patients.

However, trouble was brewing in the isles ever since Mr. Patel , a former Minister of State for Home in Gujarat under then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, took the charge of Lakshadweep Administrator in December last.

The post was commonly held by IAS officers or retired IPS officers as was in the case of his antecedent Dineshwar Sharma, former Director of Intelligence Bureau, who died in December. Usually, the Administrator works in liaison with the Lakshadweep MP. But this did not happen with Mr. Patel, a seasoned politician, who refused either to play second fiddle or play ball with local MP, Mohammed Faizal, of the Nationalist Congress Party.

Defending Mr. Patel, Mr. Abdullakutty rubbished the allegations against the Administrator that he was trying to open the Muslim- dominated isles for selling liquor.

“As of now consumption of liquor is permitted on Bangaram island that allows foreigners. This decision was taken during the Congress regime at the Centre when the late P. M. Sayeed represented Lakshadweep. Now the proposal is to serve liquor to domestic tourists at resorts in Minicoy and Kavaratti islands,” he said.

He said that the decision to ban meat including beef and chicken in mid-day meals in schools had been endorsed after consulting experts.

“But this also had been unnecessarily raked up to malign the Administrator and brand him with a negative Gujarati tag. All these years the Indian Union Muslim League, Left parties, Social Democratic Party of India and Jamaat-e-Islami have been struggling to get a foothold in Lakshadweep. But their attempts have not yielded any results,” Mr. Abdullakutty said.

What has actually triggered an opposition outcry against Mr. Patel, who is also Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, another Union Territory in western India, is that he has introduced the contentious regulations including the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) that gave the administrator powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity.

“But this proposal will also be implemented only after reaching a consensus with the citizens and all political parties,” Mr. Abdullakutty said.

Another issue is the execution of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) under which a person can be detained without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year.

“The law had to be introduced after a mob laid siege and attacked the secretariat . The miscreants were also arrested and remanded in jail,” Mr. Abdullakutty said.

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