Conflicts with CM Pinarayi reason behind attack on me, recalls Shaji Pandyala

"This man (the CM) has an inflated ego, which has no parallels in the history of politics in Kerala. He just cannot stand anyone who could cast a shadow of threat in his path," Shaji (57) says.

Published: 22nd June 2021 11:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd June 2021 12:20 PM   |  A+A-

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Shaji Pandyala

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Shaji Pandyala. (File | EPS)

Express News Service

KANNUR: "Is this the way a communist leader should present his arguments? The top leader of the party boasts about something he had done years back to scare away a gang of goons. If he doesn't have any ideas to present before the people during a pandemic, he better seek the support of someone capable of that in his party," says Shaji Pandyala, referring to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Shaji (57) - son of the late Pandyala Gopalan among the tallest leaders in Kannur -- is himself a victim of the political violence in the district as he was beaten up by alleged CPM workers in 1993. He was with MV Raghavan and an active leader of his party, CMP, then.

"This man (the CM) has an inflated ego, which has no parallels in the history of politics in Kerala. He just cannot stand anyone who could cast a shadow of threat in his path. When he gets wounded, he would go to any extent to see that the person standing opposite bites the dust. Unfortunately, it happened to me too," Shaji says.

He says his father was Pinarayi's mentor in politics.

"Though my father used to say that one has no right to be in politics if a rival cannot be respected, his disciple Pinarayi could not grasp the spirit of that message," Shaji says.

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He says Pinarayi hated him for many reasons, some of which he would not be able to speak of in public. He recalls an incident, in 1983, in connection with an attempt by a section of CPM leaders to take over a parallel college in Thalassery.

"Pinarayi was only a district committee member then but he played a role in that attempt. I was too young and was with the SFI. Along with some teachers, we had staged protests. During a march in Thalassery town, I raised some slogans against Pinarayi," says Shaji. 

The issue was taken up by the party as it had become a tussle between Pinarayi and the Dharmadam local committee, and a conciliatory meeting was attended by leaders including Pinarayi and Pandyala. Shaji was asked to tender an apology to Pinarayi.

"I said all members in the party have equal rights. I am ready to apologise. But Pinarayi too should apologise for his unwanted intervention in the issue," Shaji reminisced. 

He relates another incident in connection with a class conducted at the Kannur district committee office for SFI students.

"P Govinda Pillai was to conduct the class. For some reason, he couldn't come and Pinarayi Vijayan took his place. Instead of holding a class, he merely went into the details of the lead story in Desabhimani that day. When I joked about it later, he took it as an insult and pointed his finger at me in anger. I too pointed my finger towards him, saying that nobody is superior regarding rights in the party," Shaji says.

A third incident happened in connection with the SFI agitation against the Pinarayi Industrial Cooperative Society, he says. Pinarayi Vijayan was the president of the society then and the students had staged a dharna in front of the society office regarding an ITI course issue.

"As Pinarayi saw students sitting in front of his office, he kicked some of them to clear his way. The students were agitated and shouted slogans against him. He thought that I was behind the agitation and his rancour increased," says Shaji. 

He left the CPM during the period and joined hands with MV Raghavan and his new party, CMP.

"Since I was a good orator, MVR wanted me to speak at public functions organised by CMP. My speeches might also have irked Pinarayi," he says.

When MVR became the minister for cooperation, Shaji was given the task of organising institutions in Pinarayi, considered a CPM bastion. 

"In 1993, I was able to collect Rs 4 lakh for the society we were planning to set up from Pinarayi alone. We had constructed a building at Pinarayi which was razed down by CPM workers during the AKG Hospital election and the violence that followed in the district. Even the foundation was demolished," says Shaji.

Following the violence, Shaji too was attacked by CPM workers in February 1993. He says.

"As I got down from a bus at the hospital bus stop in Pinarayi, around 10 CPM workers attacked me from behind as I was drinking tea from the shop nearby. They attacked me with iron rods and knives. The attackers blocked vehicles towards both sides and ensured that nobody would take me to the hospital. Mambaram Divakaran, who heard about the incident, reached the spot in two jeeps with his workers and took me to a hospital in Thalassery. From there, I was taken to the Manipal Medical College. As I remained unconscious for three weeks, people thought I wouldn't survive," Shaji recalls.

He says the attack was so brutal that he is unable to walk properly now.

"What you see is a lifeless body. These people cry over democratic values, but see what they have done to me. What was my fault? I stood up against Pinarayi Vijayan and said what I felt was right. That was the only reason for the attack," Shaji says.

Though a police case was registered in connection with the attack, Shaji could not prove anything against those who had attacked him.

"They walked freely before my eyes ridiculing me. That is the style of politics adopted by Pinarayi Vijayan, the top leader of CPM in the district," says Shaji, who is not active in politics anymore.


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