Dear Rajesh Ramachandran, Get Your Facts Right!
A sharp rebuttal to the article published in The Economic Times about CPI(M) politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan and his candidature in the forthcoming legislative assembly elections in Kerala. The author points out the factual inaccuracies and logical flaws in the original article.
It is not usually my habit to read political analysis about Kerala in English language media. However, I had the extreme misfortune of reading a "piece" written about Pinarayi Vijayan, by one Rajesh Ramachandran in The Economic Times, dated April 4, 2016.
Truth be told my first reaction was, "he should not quit his day job". But then I saw that this gentleman was "Political Editor" at The Economic Times!
I was wondering whether rigour in analysis and fealty to facts were part of the selection criteria for the position of Political Editor at The Economic Times. My next thought was, whether the Times actually picked a chap off the street for a day, slapped a fancy title like Political Editor on him, to dump an “analysis” by this fellow on unsuspecting readers as part of an elaborate prank.
I wondered about these possibilities because I could find no other way to explain the sheer mediocrity and venality of this report on Pinarayi Vijayan.
In the first place the author clearly has no clue about the subject matter, but even worse, he has not even bothered to do a 5-minute search on Google for some basic facts.
Here is what I found in that space of time about Pinarayi Vijayan. In 1970, at the age of 26, Pinarayi Vijayan won a seat that had hitherto never been won by the Communist party either before the split or by the CPI(M) after it till that election. He did so at a time when the Congress, CPI, RSP, Muslim League and a large contingent of parties squared off against the CPI(M) and in an election where the tide of public opinion was against the CPI(M) across Kerala.
At the end of 1971, Pinarayi Vijayan and his comrades were running around Thalassery trying to maintain calm after communal riots broke out. They stood guard at mosques which the RSS had targeted for destruction, and one of them, U. K. Kunjiraman, lost his life in that defence. At the time, Pinarayi and M.V. Raghavan had been given charge of protecting mosques targeted by the RSS at Thalassery.
In 1975, as part of the now infamous repression imposed in Kerala during the Emergency, Pinarayi Vijayan became the only member of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala to be targeted for assassination, by the Home Ministry headed by the Congress leader K. Karunakaran. Reports state that Pinarayi was arrested, taken to a jail cell where he was stripped and beaten until the skin of his back peeled off and lay in a state of unconsciousness in a pool of his own blood until the Chief Minister C. Achutha Menon, having been gheraoed by his former comrades EMS and AKG, rescinded his Home Ministry’s order.
Reports also indicate that Pinarayi's first action on being able to walk upright was to travel to the Legislative Assembly and wave his blood soaked shirt at the Home Minister on the floor of the House.
In 1977, while the rest of India voted against the Emergency, Kerala infamously voted for the Congress and its allies (a lot of the atrocities committed by the Congress during the period of Emergency came out only after this election). The CPI(M) faced its greatest defeat in history in that election. Stalwarts like V. S. Achuthanandan and K. R. Gowriamma lost the election. And no wonder, once again the Congress, CPI, RSP, Muslim League and Kerala Congress had joined hands against the CPI(M).
Now if you had read Rajesh Ramachandran's shoddy analysis and known nothing else about Pinarayi Vijayan, you would have thought that he had been humbled in a humiliating manner at the hustings, especially in a seat where until he had won the seat for his party, the communist movement had never won even once. As a matter of fact, Pinarayi Vijayan quadrupled his majority of 1970!
Pinarayi Vijayan performed these electoral miracles in the assembly segment of Koothuparamba, a constituency which since its inception had never elected a communist, until 1970. Koothuparamba is now a bastion of the CPI (M). Until its delimitation in 2011, Koothuparamba never returned a non-CPI(M) candidate in an election.
Think about that for a second; a leader who at the age of 26 , wrests a seat where his party had not won hitherto, in the face of a giant coalition arrayed against his party. That too, while facing an electoral wave that was against the party across the state. He quadrupled his majority against even greater and seemingly insurmountable odds whilst venerated leaders of his party had fallen by the wayside.
Pinarayi's electoral track record after 1977 is also interesting. Having been appointed the District Secretary in Kannur after M.V. Raghavan’s defection to the Congress-led front along with all the CPI(M) MLAs from Kannur, Pinarayi Vijayan returned to electoral politics in 1991 contesting once again from Koothuparamba. Readers familiar with Kerala politics (and I guess that excludes Rajesh Ramachandran) would know that this was another election where the Congress-led front came to power in Kerala. Unsurprisingly, Pinarayi Vijayan’s winning majority was higher than that of his predecessor CPI(M) MLA in 1987, an election that saw a Left sweep in Kerala incidentally.
Pinarayi's last electoral contest was in 1996. He shifted constituencies but emerged as the one with the highest majority in the Left front in that election.
But that is not the half of it. Ramachandran then goes on to claim that Pinarayi Vijayan had an undistinguished ministerial tenure. Again, primary research would have saved Ramachandran a good deal of embarrassment. When Pinarayi Vijayan was asked to take charge as the State Secretary of the CPI(M) in Kerala in 1998, the state’s vernacular press bemoaned it saying that Kerala had lost its most efficient Minister for Power. Apparently Pinarayi Vijayan had quintupled power generation in the state, completely removed power cuts in a state where households and industries faced 100% power cuts during the previous Congress government, and that was just in the 2 year time period when he was the minister.
The CAG report which Ramachandran approvingly cites (even though it is apparent that he has not read it), also cites the Kuttiyadi Additional Extension project initiated by Pinarayi Vijayan and executed by BHEL as a benchmark project, the gold standard against which all other power generation projects are measured. The corruption case against Pinarayi, as stated by the CBI, was "political corruption", not corruption in the financial sense as it is known today. What did "political corruption" mean according to the CBI? As the investigating agency explained in court, not only did Pinarayi Vijayan reduce the costs of the project executed by SNC-Lavalin which had been negotiated by his predecessor from the Congress, he also managed to secure funding for a cancer hospital in the Malabar. This, according to the CBI, was a fit case for prosecution for corruption because by locating a cancer hospital in the Malabar, an economically backward area in Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan sought "political gain".
The judgement in the Lavalin case read, "A person having a modicum of law in his cranium cannot accept such an absurd position”. It further stated that the establishment of a cancer hospital for the poor was, "a laudable objective". According to Rajesh Ramachandran, Pinarayi Vijayan was not convicted in the Lavalin case because of a "technicality". One wonders whether the "technicality" was that the accusation of corruption was too absurd. Ramachandran claims that Pinarayi Vijayan has "no charisma".
Think about that for a second; a leader who at the age of 26 , wrests a seat where his party had not won hitherto, in the face of a giant coalition arrayed against his party. That too, while facing an electoral wave that was against the party across the state. He quadrupled his majority against even greater and seemingly insurmountable odds whilst venerated leaders of his party had fallen by the wayside. , and managed to convert the electorate in an assembly segment seat into permanently voting for the CPI(M) through his work as an MLA. His majority has only increased in each successive elections but according to Ramachandran, Pinarayi Vijayan has no “charisma” and he is the “most unpopular politician of Kerala.”Ramachandran also brings in Pinarayi Vijayan's son whom he graciously terms "C grade". He claims that Pinarayi is somehow guilty of something because his son, not a party member or even involved in politics, went for an MBA overseas.
The Income Tax Department had filed a sworn affidavit in the High court of Kerala in 2008 stating for the record the financial status of Pinarayi Vijayan. It is an interesting document and it would behove Ramachandran to take a look at it. The affidavit states that in order to renovate his house for a total of 10 lakh rupees, Pinarayi Vijayan had to avail of 3 loans, first in his own name, then pledging his wife's provident fund as security and finally when even that was not enough to cover the costs, his daughter’s salary certificate as well. Ah, the fruits of corruption, where you need to take 3 loans to put together 10 lakhs to renovate your own house! I am sure Sonia Gandhi and others face this pressing dilemma every day. The affidavit goes on to say that the fees for his son's MBA at the University of Birmingham amounting to 20 lakhs are being paid off by his son through an educational loan.
Ramachandran seems to think that because he did not hear of Pinarayi before he became the state secretary of the CPI(M) in Kerala, Pinarayi was a "nobody". Clearly this sort of scintillating political analysis is worth every penny that The Economic Times pays Ramachandran. There's a lot more nonsense that Ramachandran managed to cram into his "analysis".
Has Ramachandran ever wondered where Rahul Gandhi acquired the means to go to Harvard and return after not completing his studies? Or scions of other political families who did the same and then returned only to be foisted upon an unwilling public whose taxes were probably looted to finance said foreign jaunts?
What great crime did Pinarayi Vijayan's son commit that compelled Ramachandran to drag his name out on to the pages of The Economic Times?Was it the fact that he is a private citizen who has not involved himself in politics but instead has gone his own way and has been working in the private sector and paying off his educational loan?Was it the fact that he took a loan out because his father could not pay for his studies unlike the children of other politicians?Or was it simply the fact that he was Pinarayi Vijayan's son?
Ramachandran cites a random poll of political leaders in Kerala which puts together 7 leaders like Oommen Chandy and V. S. who have been active in politics and Pinarayi who has not contested an election since 1996 as well as others, then culls the list of 7 to make a fantasy subset of VS, Chandy and Pinarayi and uses that to term Pinarayi as "the least popular politician in Kerala". Never mind that of all the 7 people listed in the poll Pinarayi, the one who kept away from electoral politics for the longest period, still emerged third. According to Ramachandran, unless Pinarayi scores the highest in a random poll, he is the least popular politician in Kerala.
What is this animus towards Pinarayi that seems to animate Ramachandran into forgetting journalistic propriety and even common decency?
Is it because unlike the few in his generation who came from utter poverty Pinarayi Vijayan chose not to go to the Middle East or into the government sector, as was common in Kerala in that day and age? Was it because he instead chose to go into public service and put his life on the line repeatedly against the RSS, preventing a Babri Masjid incident from happening in Kerala in the '70's already? Was it because he was beaten by the state police within an inch of his life, defending liberty during the darkness of the Emergency? Was it because he brought electricity to corners of Kerala which were hitherto languishing in darkness?
Or is it because a toddy tapper’s son like Pinarayi is not sufficiently "working class" enough for Ramachandran?
Ramachandran seems to think that because he did not hear of Pinarayi before he became the state secretary of the CPI(M) in Kerala, Pinarayi was a "nobody". Clearly this sort of scintillating political analysis is worth every penny that The Economic Times pays Ramachandran. There's a lot more nonsense that Ramachandran managed to cram into his "analysis". But who cares, life is short. Ramachandran should keep up scamming the ET with his “analysis” for as long as he can get paid by them, though. If they deem fit to print the rubbish Ramachandran spews, they seem like a fairly gullible lot.