A lesson from Gujarat for Kerala


Pinarayi Vijayan’s decision to adopt administrative techniques from a BJP-ruled State is a bold move

Pinarayi Vijayan’s decision to adopt administrative techniques from a BJP-ruled State is a bold move

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan triggered a political storm last week when he sent Chief Secretary V.P. Joy to Gujarat to study the techniques in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s e-governance dashboard system. The UDF criticised the visit, especially in the light of Mr. Vijayan’s and the CPI(M)’s uncompromising political position vis-a-vis BJP-ruled Gujarat. The Kerala Chief Minister and his party have often shown contempt for anyone praising the Gujarat model. In fact, in 2013, the CPI(M) had demanded the expulsion of the then Labour Minister in the Congress-led UDF government, Shibu Baby John, who had visited Gujarat on his way back to Kerala from New Delhi for half a day to learn more about its highly feted skill development programme. Though the Minister later declared that Gujarat’s skill development model was inappropriate for Kerala, the CPI(M) refused to back down on its demand. Earlier, in 2009, when a CPI(M) MP, A. P. Abdullakutty, spoke highly of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his State, he was expelled from the party. He then joined the Congress and was elected MLA twice, but was ousted from the Congress for the same reason. Mr. Abdullakutty is now the national vice president of the BJP.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Vijayan’s desire to learn governance from a BJP-ruled State took Kerala by surprise. The Opposition parties predictably slammed the CPI(M) for what they called its double standards. While BJP State president K. Surendran remarked that the decision to send the Chief Secretary to study the dashboard system showed that the Chief Minister had realised the merits of the Gujarat model, the CPI(M) State leadership was at pains to defend the decision, particularly in the absence of Mr. Vijayan who is undergoing treatment in Minnesota.

The Gujarat CM Dashboard, developed in 2019 under former Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, is considered an e-governance marvel with 3,400 indicators of 20 government sectors, 740 web services and APIs and integration of 183 eGov applications.

After his Gujarat visit, Mr. Joy called the dashboard a “first-of-its -kind initiative” and said that it effectively monitored delivery of public services and gave feedback directly from beneficiaries. Through the system, the Chief Minister can monitor the implementation of various schemes and basic services such as State transport, street lights and drinking water supply in any part of the State. Mr. Joy was also quoted as saying that he was keen on setting up in Kerala a centre similar to the Vidya Samiksha Kendra (Command and Control Centre for Schools) in Gujarat.

This is not to say that Kerala is lagging behind in IT-enabled governance. At present, the State has statistics to monitor the timely delivery of 471 dashboards in 38 departments connected to 53 websites. Many of these are worth emulating: Kerala’s COVID-19 dashboard, for instance, was adopted by many States in India.

Mr. Vijayan’s willingness to risk some political capital and adopt slightly more advanced administrative techniques from a State ruled by an ideologically incompatible party can be seen as a bold move to infuse more efficiency and transparency in governance. Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, put this in perspective when he said: “Glad that the Kerala delegation visited Gujarat to study its data-driven monitoring model for schools. Many states have benefitted from Kerala’s human developmental model. Similarly, in a large country like India, Kerala must learn from best practices of other States. This is federalism.”


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