Thiruvananthapuram, May 7 : The handling of the Covid pandemic by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan won him and State Health Minister K.K.Shailaja lot of accolades and it was the major reason which helped him script a never before electoral victory witnessed in Kerala, when he mauled the Congress-led opposition and got a second successive term.
As he gets ready to be sworn in most likely on May 20, one thing is certain, there will be no honeymoon period for him, which normally any new government gets, as the pandemic which won him all round glory, is going to be his biggest challenge as well.
The Covid scenario in Kerala is such that on Thursday it reached a record high of 42,464 cases after 1,55,632 samples were tested and the total number of active cases stood at a staggering 3,90,906.
Not to mention the test positivity rate stood at 27.28 per cent and all these figures are the highest ever recorded in Kerala, which means one cannot bask in past glory.
The pandemic first surfaced in Kerala in Thrissur on January 30 last year, when a medical student form Wuhan in China tested positive but it was not until the first week of March, 2020, when the ongoing assembly session was curtailed that things started to turn for the worse and Kerala was the first state which decided to go ahead with a lockdown in the fourth week of March and soon the Centre came with a national lockdown.
A media critic on condition of anonymity pointed out, no doubt the situation was well handled by Vijayan and state Health Minister Shailaja and all those who know the well oiled machinery of the health department, it did not come as a surprise.
"Both Vijayan and Shailaja led from the front and got the world looking on Kerala. After some time, many felt that Vijayan was trying to build on to the accolades that was received and the situation was the Congress led opposition was caught on the back foot and they knew that if they do not handle it wisely, it could turn counterproductive," said the critic.
"The distribution of the monthly food kit to all families was the clincher and soon came the local body polls in December and he won. Knowing that his Covid war has gone down deep into the hearts of the people, he saw the writing on the wall and repeated it in the April 6 assembly polls.
"But now comes the real battle for Vijayan, as by now things have gone out of hand as with a huge caseload, any aberration could backfire and he has to tread carefully and how he does it is going to be the cynosure of all eyes," added the critic.
Apart from fighting the pandemic, Vijayan has another big task ahead of him as the State's finances are appallingly poor as the per capita debt of every Keralaite stands at Rs 1,05,000 up from Rs 46,075 in 2016.
When Vijayan took over in 2016, the total public debt was Rs 1.50 lakh crore and today it has touched Rs 3.20 lakh crore.
Apart from handling the pandemic, the task of selecting a new Finance Minister is another challenge, as the economist turned two term State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac is not there this time, as he came under the two successive term norm.
The biggest challenge before Isaac's replacement is he will just not be able to blame his predecessor, which was the norm for every new finance minister, as this is the first time a sitting government has retained power.
So all in all it's going to be tough for Vijayan and time will prove if Covid which helped him retain power, turns to be his nemesis.
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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text