It’s Comrade Pinarayi, not ‘captain’, for Left

When Pinarayi — who has always been criticised for authoritarian style of functioning — is called captain, question whether it has anything to do with his omnipotent status arises

Published: 04th April 2021 06:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th April 2021 06:45 AM   |  A+A-

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the election campaign of Tripunithura LDF candidate M Swaraj on Saturday | Albin Mathew

Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: The CPM has had only one leader who was attributed a military designation — Jaipal Singh, a former central committee member from Delhi. He was popular as Major. But Singh was an Army officer, thus the name. All other Communist leaders have been called ‘comrade’, reflecting the camaraderie and equal status the cadre share with the leader. 

For Communist party cadre, it has always been comrade Krishna Pillai, comrade EMS and comrade AKG. ‘Captain’ is a new word that is not only unfamiliar to the Communist terminology, but also puts focus on a particular leader. When Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has always been criticised for an authoritarian style of functioning, is now being called ‘captain’ rather than a ‘comrade’, the interesting question that pops up is whether it has anything to do with the omnipotent status that he enjoys within the party. 

On March 23, the book ‘Captain’— written by A V Anilkumar, a senior journalist with CPM mouthpiece Deshabhimani — was released in Nileshwaram. The piece shines light on the personality and politics of Pinarayi Vijayan. Already, CPM politburo members Prakash Karat and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and state committee member P Jayarajan have made it clear that ‘captain’ was not a term coined by the party but given by exuberant cadre. 

However, acting state secretary A Vijayaraghavan had said that it was a recognition of Pinarayi’s popularity. Meanwhile, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran had rejected the new terminology, saying that they call him “comrade Pinarayi”.Among CPM leaders, the most notable comment came from P Jayarajan. “Communists are not narcissists. As Kodiyeri said, all are comrades in the CPM. The party is the captain,” he said. Observers have sought to read Jayarajan’s remark against the trend of the party being reduced to Pinarayi. 

‘Centralisation of power’

Left political observer Dr Azad pointed put that ‘captain’ is not a term like ‘mass leader’ or any other coinage reflecting the class aspect that the Communist party upholds.“The word captain signifies that the power is being centralised with a particular individual. Thus, he will order and others should obey,” he said.

Dr Azad felt that these days, public relations groups tend to draft such terms and slogans by completely overlooking the kind of politics a particular party is standing for. “Slogans such as Urappanu LDF and Ellam Shariyakum also came from a capitalist type of branding,” he said. Former naxalite leader M M Somasekharan said the term reflected the unipolar power position that Pinarayi Vijayan enjoys in the CPM.

“Pinarayi hasn’t discouraged calling him captain. When a person is indulged in narcissism, he cannot realise what is going on around him. Captain is not a word that has cropped up innocuously, but should be read with the present state of affairs within the CPM,” he said.Political analyst K C Umesh Babu pointed out that the term is grossly apolitical.“It is the first time that such a term is being bestowed on a Left leader. This is a run-up to branding Pinarayi as a modern prince,” he said.Babu recollected that no such title was given to V S Achuthanandan by party cadre or the general public even when he was immensely popular.


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