By T.J.S. George
Are we witnessing the final fade-out of communism’s run in India? West Bengal was a Left citadel that seemed impregnable for three long decades. Rather suddenly it crumbled and repeated attempts to put it together again have failed. Kerala then became the Marxists’ only viable address. The electoral victory they gained in the State last year was impressive and the Chief Minister’s chair was filled by the Indian Left’s legendary Strong Man, Pinarayi Vijayan.
From day one, however, and for reasons no one can understand, Pinarayi became a standing monument to foolishness. False step after false step led to humiliation after humiliation for himself and for his Government. By last week, in the wake of heavy lashings by the Supreme Court, Pinarayi looked not just a comic figure but also a dangerous one out of tune with all others including his own party leaders.
There is a pattern in his conduct: He always takes a position against public opinion. Is it ego, arrogance or the Strong Man showing that he can do what he pleases? When students began an agitation against malpractices in a family-run law college, the Chief Minister supported the erring family. The students gained widespread public sympathy and eventually won their demands, but Pinarayi continued to be on the side of the wrong-doers.
More unpopular was his backing of a private college management against which students rose in revolt following the suicide of one of them. The management was accused of torturing him and others who questioned practices like extracting money under various pretexts. When the dead boy’s protesting mother was manhandled by the Police, people across the State were outraged by the Government’s insensitiveness. The family’s demands were finally conceded, but only on paper, while the Chief Minister went on making disparaging remarks about the grieving mother and her relatives. The loss of public goodwill for the Government was massive.
On other fronts, too, the public was either puzzled or offended. In an unprecedented move, the Chief Minister started surrounding himself with special advisors — Legal Advisor, Media Advisor, Economic Advisor (from Harvard University), Police Advisor; two of his Ministers were obliged to resign in unhappy circumstances; Kannur politics (from his region of the State) saw 18 political murders in one year attributed to the CPM and BJP; he was seen generally against the popular drive to remove encroachments in the hills of Munnar, criticising the officials carrying out orders.
It was his handling of the Police that exposed a confused, inefficient and self-obsessed Pinarayi (who is Home Minister as well). He began his term by removing the Police Chief, Senkumar. Improving Police efficiency was not the intention, for major cases of incompetence followed. A film actress was kidnapped and assaulted and even before investigation could begin, the Chief Minister said it was not a conspiracy. On World Women’s Day, Shiv Sena’s moral Police attacked couples, and Policemen stood around watching. A woman student died in mysterious circumstances and so did two school girls within two months of each other; Police investigations became a farce.
And Senkumar went to court. The way Pinarayi handled the matter became a classic case of moronism. The Supreme Court ordered the Government to take Senkumar back as Chief of Police. A sensible government would have quietly done so and minimised the damage to its prestige. But Pinarayi, with all those advisors around him, delayed Senkumar’s reinstatement for a week, then filed a new petition asking for clarity in the court’s order. The court dismissed the petition, disregarded the Government lawyer’s apology, imposed a fine of Rs. 25,000 towards costs, remarked that it was now convinced that the removal of Senkumar in the first place was done with “malafide intentions,” and issued notice on a contempt of court petition against the State’s Chief Secretary.
Shamed as no government had been shamed before, the Pinarayi machine still didn’t see the light. Just before Senkumar was reinstated, a hundred Police officers were hastily reshuffled in the State, evidently to keep a watch on the new Chief. A Chief Minister so scared of his own Police Chief? Additionally, he stood before the State Assembly and made amazing claims: the Government had not been fined by the court, there was no apology by the Government, we only followed procedures, the Government did nothing wrong…
If this is how Pinarayi Vijayan goes on, the CPM may be off India’s power map for good. People can take the foolishness of fools, but not the foolishness of egoists.