Pinarayi Vijayan is not just another chief minister. He represents an ideology that inspired millions of people the world over. In India, too, Communism was such a driving force that many sacrificed their lives in the belief that in a Communist system everyone’s needs would be taken care of and equality, liberty and fraternity would at all times be upheld.
When EMS Namboothiripad was elected Chief Minister in Kerala in 1957, he became the first Communist to come to power without spilling blood. His was not a bad government but he certainly did not set the Bharatapuzha on flame. He was as bourgeois as any other political leader.
Over the last 65 years, Communists have become indistinguishable from the leaders of other parties. I remember contributing a small amount to the party when it raised money to buy an Ambassador car for the party secretary.
Many years later, while spending a few minutes with a CPM leader and Rajya Sabha member at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, what I noticed was the latest iPhone in his pocket. He, perhaps, did not know that the instrument did not gel with the cloth bag that hung from his shoulders.
A friend whose parents are hardcore Marxists told me a story his father told him. This particular leader was passing through the place by a particular train. He contacted my friend’s father and told him to have a particular fish available in plenty there to be fried and delivered to him in the AC compartment.
I am happy that the comrade was equivocal in his response to the leader. I could imagine the leader getting down at the railway station and looking desperately for fried fish. I, too, used to tell my relative who was a CIoW (chief inspector of works) at Bina in Madhya Pradesh whenever I passed through the station. He would bring paratha and chicken fry that would sustain us for a whole day.
But a Communist leader asking a cadre to bring fish fry for him was certainly unacceptable. In the public perception, Communists are the ones who can have a sumptuous meal in nothing but dal vada and black coffee.
I heard a top leader of the CPM whose name has several names of gods discussing in detail how Indian wine came nowhere near German and other European wines. I realised that he was a connoisseur of wines. I even wondered whether he was a wine taster.
I have written all this to bring home the point that Communists no longer have any distinguishable traits. They are as fond of luxury as leaders of the BJP or the Congress. The other day, someone sent me a family photograph. It showed the father and mother sitting, with their children standing behind them.
The message described them as ideal parents. They brought up their children in strict discipline. They went to good schools and studied well. They did not waste their time in student union activities. Nor did they throw stones at public transport or break police cordons.
They are all well settled in life. They are parents any parent would like to emulate.
On a closer examination of the photograph, I realised that the parents were Pinarayi Vijayan and his wife Kamala Vijayan. When I saw the picture, I remembered Saji Cherian, MLA, who lost his ministership because of some foolish comments he made on the Constitution that it was a cut and paste job. He said that portions of other constitutions were cut and pasted to create the Indian Constitution. I wish he had read the debates in the Constituent Assembly before making such a statement.
Cherian has three daughters, all of whom are either doctors or medical students. They all studied in private medical colleges. I don’t think he ever allowed them to take part in SFI and DYFI activities.
When my son wanted to become a doctor, I told him that he should get admission on merit, for I would not be able to admit him to a private medical college by paying capitation fees. My son found another way to serve society by doing his MSW.
While I was with The Searchlight in the eighties, I met an economist from Pune. He was the late Dr DC Wadhwa. He had been visiting Patna off and on. While doing research, he accidentally came across a pernicious practice in Bihar.
The primary job of the MPs and MLAs is to legislate. It is a laborious process. Bills have to be presented in the House where the legislators will critically examine them. The Opposition would jump upon features of the Bill that are draconian or unacceptable.
An alternative is to promulgate ordinances. Once an ordinance is promulgated, it is as valid as a law enacted by the Assembly or Parliament. The rule stipulates that the ordinance should be converted into an Act within six months if it has to remain in force.
If this is not done, the ordinance will lapse after six months. The Bihar Government was adopting a strange practice. That was to re-promulgate the same ordinance every six months to keep it alive. Some ordinances were re-promulgated dozens of times.
Wadhwa not only wrote a book, he also filed an appeal against the practice in the Supreme Court. Dr Wadhwa was able to shake up the corrupt system in Bihar. The apex court came down heavily against the “fraud on the Constitution”. Alas, the practice did not go away. In fact, it is in vogue in many other states and even at the Centre.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a huge majority in Parliament. Yet, he introduced the controversial farm laws, first, as ordinances. This was to avoid a debate. And then the Bills were passed without any debate worth the name. The farmers, especially in Punjab, had to pay a heavy price to get the three farm laws junked.
Pinarayi Vijayan has been taking the ordinance route to govern, despite having 99 MLAs on his side in a House of 140. In doing so, he has been exposing himself as a vainglorious entity. Kerala’s Lokayukta is one of the strongest such institutions in the country.
The CPM can take credit for the unique position the Lokayukta enjoys because the Lokayukta law was enacted by its own government, then headed by EK Nayanar, some 22 years ago. In fact, I saw a video clip in which Vijayan takes pride in the fact that the Lokayukta has real teeth.
Many chief ministers have come and gone since the law was enacted but none of them was worried about the powers the Lokayukta had.
Under the law, if the Lokayukta finds a minister guilty, the chief minister has no other option but to ask for his resignation. That is how KT Jaleel lost his ministership.
Instead of being remorseful, Jaleel tried to cast aspersions on the Lokayukta, who happens to be an acquaintance. There are cases involving some ministers and the chief minister himself before the Lokayukta. One is regarding the vandalism in which some MLAs, including a minister, indulged in the Assembly in their bid to prevent the late KM Mani from presenting his Budget.
If the verdict is against the present education minister V Sivankutty, the chief minister will have to drop him from his council of ministers. That raises the question why on earth was he selected when the CPM has capable MLAs, including U. Pratibha, to be tried or tested. (A disclaimer here — she represents Kayamkulam, my constituency.)
More worrisome for the chief minister is that there is a case involving Vijayan himself, now before the Lokayukta, Justice Cyriac Joseph. He is alleged to have misused the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. When the party lost its MLA from Chengannur, he provided liberal assistance to the family from this fund. What’s more, his government also offered a job — an executive-level post — to his son on compassionate grounds. Usually, only clerical jobs are given on such grounds.
If the Lokayukta finds him guilty, he will have no option but to resign. The government promulgated an ordinance under which the Lokayukta was defanged. If he finds a minister guilty, the chief minister will decide whether he is guilty or not. If the CM is found guilty, the House will decide whether he should resign or not. In the case of the MLAs, the Speaker will be the appellate authority.
Alas, the ordinance has lapsed. With the lapsing, the Lokayukta has regained its powers. Vijayan has succeeded in passing a Bill to replace the ordinance. There is, however, one hitch. Will the Governor sign the Bill? There is no time bar for the Governor. He can sit on it for months and Vijayan won’t be able to do a thing. Alternatively, he can refer the Bill to the President, Droupadi Murmu, with no certainty about when she would take a decision.
If, in the meantime, Justice Joseph gives his verdict and it is against Vijayan, he cannot even pray to God, for he is supposed to be an atheist. At the root of the problem is the tug of war between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the government. No doubt, he is a maverick.
Khan is capable of calling a vice-chancellor a criminal forgetting that he himself had reappointed him even after he crossed the age of superannuation. He can also claim that well-known historian Irfan Habib tried to assault him when Habib was so old that he needed support to stand up.
However, he has a point that the government has been violating every norm to fill university posts with its favourites. In one instance, the wife of a former MP, KK Ragesh, is all set to be appointed in Kannur University as a senior faculty. The minimum qualification is that the candidate should have at least eight years of teaching experience. Priya Varghese does not have such an experience. Yet, she was chosen over someone who has 14 years of teaching experience at SB College, Changanassery. Joseph Skariah had 650 points for research and papers presented against the lady’s 156.
How truly it is said that the best way to destroy a country is to wreck its education system by appointing incompetent people to teaching posts. Those who can afford prefer to go out of the state or even the country to pursue higher education.
As Governor is the Chancellor of all state universities, he has some nuisance value. So the government wants to deprive him of his powers vis-a-vis state universities. Now the question is, will the Governor sign the Bill that seeks to curtail his own powers?
Of course, Khan is a slippery person. He can say something and do something else. When newsmen reminded him that it was he who re-appointed the Kannur VC, he said he was influenced by Vijayan’s plea that it was a prestigious issue for him as he belonged to Kannur. That is his morality!
When he came to Kerala as Governor, he had high hopes of a career beyond the gubernatorial post. When journalists speculated that he had a chance to become the vice-president of the country, he began to show restraint.
Now that Khan knows that his career is destined to end in the Raj Bhavan, he is becoming more and more irritable. If he remains adamant and does not sign the Lokayukta and governor Bills, Vijayan can land in real trouble.
Nothing better can be expected when he has defenders like Minister for Industries P Rajeev who argues that the Lokayukta is a non-judicial body without realising that only a former Chief Justice of a high court or a former justice of the Supreme Court can be the Lokayukta. When Vijayan has supporters like him, he does not need foes like Governor Arif Mohammed Khan. In any case, it is Pinarayism, not Communism, which is in force in Kerala now.