T Satisan, Kerala
On May 25, the readers of the major national dailies in Delhi woke up to an odd full page spread advertisement featuring a smiling face of an unknown man against a red backdrop. This little-known face was none other than the Kerala’s new Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. It was a part of celebration of his victory by publicising his swearing in as the Chief Minister of Kerala. The ad states, “Committed to turn Kerala into a truly God’s own country”! In Kerala, CPM is all set for a radical transformation. Along with the advent of Pinarayi Vijayan as the Chief Minister, the change is self-evident as the second page a newspaper reveals that it was a ‘Consumer Connect Initiative’!
Vijayan has managed to garner the support of party’s central leadership in keeping his bête noire and CPM’s senior most leader VS Achuthanandan away from the position. It looks like he is now the undisputed leader of both CPM and LDF. Party general secretary Sitaram Yechury who is otherwise considered to be a staunch supporter of VS changed his stand after the polls. Until then he kept on telling that VS is healthy to accomplish any task, an indirect hint that he would be the CM if LDF comes to power. Naturally, VS was the star campaigner for LDF. Even though Pinarayi led a Nava Kerala March from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, it was VS’s campaign that brought votes to LDF’s box. But, the hot seat goes to Pinarayi. How did he manage this? Political observers say, his manipulative skills are unparalleled.
His excessively serious face and body language are fit for a Stalinist communist. Smile is a rare gesture in his face. To bring the party under his supreme command he goes to any extent. Those who dare to support VS, his arch rival in the party, are shown the door or kept in the corner. He had faced a lot of allegations including SNC Lavalin corruption case. Nepotism, autocratic style and alleged rapport with some shady figures were other allegations. Still he remained unscathed. What is the reason behind this? The answer lies in the Kannur model. Post-emergency, the CPM in Kannur district suffered a massive exodus of party workers to RSS. It happened in several others places like Alappuzha and coastal areas of Thrissur. Party’s method to stop it was to attack RSS men, especially those who migrated from CPM to RSS. So far about 276 Sangh workers have lost their lives due to this Stalinist modus operandi.
SNC Lavlin Sword hangs over Vijayan
No scam has created so much turmoil in Kerala politics than SNC Lavlin did. It all started with a Controller and Audit General (CAG) of India report of released in 1998 in which CAG found irregularities in the deal signed between Kerala State Electricity Board and SNC Lavlin, a Canadian firm, for the renovation of hydro-electric projects in Idukki District. The CAG found a loss of Rs 375 crore to the state exchequer.The role of Vijayan in the deal was undeniable.
PM Modi, during assembly election campaign in Kerala, had alleged that LDF’s CM candidate was in the list of the accused in a case in connection with the murder of a Sangh worker. People believe that PM was referring to the murder of Vadikkal Ramakrishnan of Thalassery, the first RSS martyr killed by CPM killers in Kerala; he was killed on April 28, 1969. People believe that CPM violence taking place in Kannur district cannot occur sans at least the silent nod of Pinarayi. In fact, his political rise has a lot to do with the Kannur violence.
Senior Congress leader MM Hassan had said immediately after the inhuman murder of CPM rebel leader TP Chandrsekharan on May 4, 2012: “Pinarayi always toes a Stalinist line and leads the Kannur lobby within the party. So, whenever there is a political clash, CPM is a common factor. They are always for violence and killings.”
When CPM-led LDF government of party veteran EK Nayanar took over in 1996, Pinarayi was made the minister for Power. It did not take much time before he turned the blued eyed boy of the LDF convener VS Achuthanandan, another power centre in the party. In less than two years, state secretary Chadayan Govindan passed away and Pinarayi succeeded the deceased leader, thanks to the support of VS. He was soon selected to the party’s Polit Bureau. Slowly he started purging and lot of rivals lost their positions. Then the Keralites saw him posing a challenge to VS, his mentor. He made sure that no VS supporter occupied key posts in the state committee, state secretariat, district committee and district secretariat. He brought not only the whole party apparatus but also DYFI, SFI, party TV channel Kairali and party organ Deshabhimani in his tight grip.
It was the beginning of the public faction fight between Pinarayi and VS whether the latter was the CM or LoP. In the 2006 assembly elections, Pinarayi succeeded in the rejection of VS’s candidature by state committee, state secretariat and PB. But, later, PB had to surrender to the massive public protests by the VS supporters. After the elections, Pinarayi could not do anything to prevent VS from becoming the CM as the public support was in his favour. But, VS had to give the important portfolios of Home and Vigilance to Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the nominee of Pinarayi. It is to be noted that during the regime of EK Nayanar, he had kept these portfolios with himself. Even though VS held the Vigilance with him for a few days, due to party’s (read Pinarayi’s) intervention he had to part with it.
Even though Pinarayi showed the ‘grace to VS to continue as the CM’ every move of his and his personal staff was monitored. The 2011 assembly election scenario was the repetition of 2006. Party denied ticket to VS, then came massive protests, at last he got the ticket. This time people’s mandate was to push the LDF from the treasury to the opposition benches. VS tried to be an active LoP, but, the party machinery worked as per the Pinarayi’s strings. VS had to lose his trusted personal staff due to the party diktats. There were complaints that VS did not move his little finger to protect his trusted lieutenants whenever party insisted on their removal. It was a sharp contract from Pinarayi who saves his men whenever they face problems.
When the exchange of allegations between the two stalwarts turned public outbursts during VS’s chief ministership, party suspended both from PB, the party’s highest policy-making body in May 2007. Pinarayi was reinstated after nearly an year, but VS is still out of the Polit Bureau. When rebel CPM leader T.P. Chandrasekharan was murdered VS went to his house to pay homage to his old comrade, but Pinarayi did not ! TP was very close to VS even after he was expelled from the party. SNC-Lavalin scandal was the worst allegation Pinarayi had to face in his political career. But, the entire party machinery stood by Pinarayi. PB would not ask him to resign until he was convicted by a court. VS was the only exception. He was reported to have used the party forums to blame Pinarayi. And, he quite often made public statements with hidden attacks against Pinarayi. But, Pinarayi has been fortunate enough to come out unscathed from court proceedings in connection with the Lavalin case.
When several CPM leaders were arrested in connection with TP murder, party’s rank and file throughout the state were baffled and perplexed. But, Pinarayi, the powerful CPM leader, threatened the Congress-led UDF government and the Congress leaders that if police go ahead with the arrest of party workers, the party would convert itself into a “burning torch.” People and TP’s Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leaders and his family members believe that Congress government was scared to take proper action hence the culprits still are not booked. Pinarayi protects his men at any cost!
Now, RSS-BJP leaders are not quite sure if they can expect a fair deal from Pinarayi. Post vote counting violence and attack on BJP-RSS workers throughout the state by CPM men justify their anxieties. Kerala BJP leaders have submitted their complaint to the state governor and requested him to do the needful to put an end to the CPM violence. National and state leaders of BJP have met President Pranab Mukherjee with the same sorts of memorandum. BJP state general secretary AN Radhakrishan opined that Pinarayi Vijayan should realise that he has to travel a long distance from Pinarayi, his village, to the secretariat, the seat of the power and government. He has to change his approach to the people and the opposition parties. Radhakrishnan added that Pinarayi has to change even his body language which is akin to arrogance.
Now, the laymen believe, VS is betrayed by his own party. There is a funny proverb in Malayalam which can be translated somewhat like this: “Show the younger sister to the groom and bring the elder one for wedding.” Now people compare him to curry leaves, the essential must in Keralites’ cooking, but, people discard it while eating. They even sarcastically call it Fidel Castro. Because, after declaring the election of PInarayi as the legislature party leader, Yechury told the media that VS will be the party’s Fidel Castro in the future.
As an attempt to pacify disgruntled Achuthanandan, the CPM has now decided to give him a post of an advisor with cabinet rank. The news is also coming to the fore that the offer was according to the desire of VS which he had expressed to Yechury in a letter. Now the question is whether the capitalist and violent face of Pinarayi prevails over Kerala. The answer lies in whether he continues with Kannur Model in dealing with the rising BJP or adapts himself to a new position. n