In a thought-provoking moment at the inauguration of the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode, a notable Malayalam writer and Jnanpeet laureate, MT Vasudevan Nair delivered a veiled criticism against the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan-led Communist Party of India (Marxist) government. The author asserted that freedom should not be considered a ‘generous gift’ bestowed upon the people by any ruler. The statement, made while sharing the dais with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, appeared to be both a subtle critique and a piece of advice for the political leader
Renowned Malayalam writer and Jnanpeet laureate, MT Vasudevan Nair, subtly expressed concerns about the state of political values and leadership during the inauguration of the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode. In a carefully crafted statement, he pointed out the historical necessity of evaluating the deterioration of values in politics, emphasising that the absence of proper and suitable leaders has become an accepted excuse.
MT, as he is fondly known, suggested that contemporary political activity, often seen as a legitimate means to acquire power, has resulted in a focus on domination or autocracy. He argued that holding positions in Parliament or the Cabinet leads to a sense of domination, ultimately paving the way for autocratic governance. The veteran writer lamented that the once-held belief in power as an opportunity to serve the people has been overshadowed by a pursuit of authority.
Drawing parallels to historical events, MT reminded the audience of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent overthrow of the Tsarist regime. However, he highlighted the oversight in neglecting the principle of service that should have followed. Citing the insights of Wilhelm J. Reif, a Marxian philosopher and student of Sigmund Freud, MT underscored the warning of a potential balkanisation in the Soviet Union.
He urged for a critical analysis of the reasons behind the deterioration, emphasizing that handing over industries, culture, and science to management with excessive power initiates the decline. MT echoed the sentiments of Maxime Gorky and Anton Chekhov, Russian writers who stressed the necessity for the transformation of a ‘mob’ into a responsible society.
While MT did not explicitly name any individual, his statements seemed to resonate as a veiled critique against the current Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, who was present at the event. The seasoned writer pointed out that freedom is not a mere act of generosity displayed by governments, challenging the prevailing political landscape.
Reflecting on the Russian Revolution, MT noted that the initial participants were labeled a ‘mob,’ emphasizing the importance of evolving into a responsible society. He cited the views of EMS Nampoothirippad, a prominent Communist leader, who advocated for a change in the notion of perpetual leadership.
MT suggested that some leaders reach high positions incidentally, and to truly create a society aspiring for liberation, leaders must expand their thought processes. He concluded by expressing hope that those in power would realise the need for this perspective.
While MT did not explicitly name the target of his critique, speculation points towards the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government. The writer, known for his neutral stance, has rarely ventured into direct political commentary. However, his recent remarks indicate a deviation from his usual position.
Left leaders attempted to deflect the criticism by suggesting that MT may have referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nevertheless, both the BJP and the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) dismissed this interpretation. Media outlets, aligning with public perception, reported that MT’s comments were aimed at the Kerala CM, who faces allegations of corruption, fascism, and nepotism.