‘Only Tharoor can save Congress’: Advocate A Jayasankar
In a freewheeling conversation, Jayasankar talks about the rot that has crept into the judiciary, why he attacks CM Pinarayi Vijayan the most and shares his thoughts on Kerala politics.
Published: 29th January 2023 10:23 AM | Last Updated: 29th January 2023 10:23 AM | A+A A-
A lawyer, political observer and social commentator, Advocate A Jayasankar is someone you cannot ignore. One may or may not agree with his views and the way he lampoons political leaders, but he always has listeners. In a freewheeling conversation, Jayasankar talks about the rot that has crept into the judiciary, why he attacks CM Pinarayi Vijayan the most and shares his thoughts on Kerala politics.
You used to write under the pen name Rajeshwari. Why did you choose that name?
When I started writing, I was the government pleader in the High Court. So there was a limitation to openly criticise the government and the courts. Hence, I thought it was safer to write under a female pseudonym. It’s generally believed that female names get more attention (laughs).
The Kerala High Court is in news for the wrong reasons now. Don’t you think that the allegations of bribery against lawyer Saiby Jose Kidangoor, the president of the HC Advocates’ Association, will affect the credibility of the judicial system?
The judicial system has witnessed a degeneration. The present Supreme Court and the High Courts are not like the courts at the time of independence. We have a situation where judges themselves appoint other judges.
Are you of the view that the present collegium system to appoint judges is against the democratic values of the country?
Yes, it’s anti-constitutional. Look at the elevation of several lawyers as judges of the Kerala High Court. It’s like a UDF cabinet where Shibu Baby John, son of the late Baby John, M K Muneer, son of the late C H Muhammed Koya, P K Abdu Rabb, son of Avukader Kutty Naha, and Anoop Jacob, son of the late T M Jacob, are appointed as ministers.
Do you think that the proceedings initiated by the High Court on the allegations of bribery are proper?
The decision to intimate the police regarding the allegation is correct. It’s not that the suspect will now be subjected to trial and put behind bars, but at least the public will know about the unholy practices.
There are allegations that advocates are luring clients by claiming proximity to judges. What is your view?
It’s true to an extent. Some advocates have the upper hand before some judges for several reasons. But all of them cannot be linked to corruption.
How does a person of dubious integrity get elected as president of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association?
He is a highly influential person who has twice served as secretary of the association. He knows how to manage the election process effectively. The CPM-backed union of lawyers was the main opponent. But there was a tacit understanding between the two as the person who contested for the post of secretary is a relative of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. In my personal opinion, Saiby is not eligible to hold the post of president.
A book by former MP Sebastian Paul describes how K G Balakrishnan became the Chief Justice of India. Another book, by the daughter of Elizabeth Mathai Idiculla, a former judicial officer, alleges that Elizabeth was denied a high court judge’s post ignoring her seniority…
There is a lack of transparency in appointments and promotions. Sometimes they may be based on seniority or merit or caste or some other factors.
Some say a mafia is controlling the judiciary… What is your take?
There is a vicious circle surrounding some sections of the judiciary. There are unhealthy practices prevailing in the system. The judiciary is yet to relieve itself of the feudal system and colonial hangover.
You have been observing Kerala politics from close quarters for the past few decades. How has it evolved?
For the past 40-odd years, state politics has been very stable with two strong fronts. But that has now changed with the weakening of Congress and UDF. Another change is that a section of people has started thinking that there is nothing wrong with voting for the BJP. A sizeable portion of Nair voters, who were with Congress, has become BJP voters now. Another equally important change is that Christians who were traditional voters of Congress have shifted their loyalties. There is no Congress without Christian votes.
Why did Christians leave Congress?
The anti-Muslim sentiments among Christians have increased dramatically in the last decade due to multiple reasons. The upper hand that the Muslim League has in UDF is one strong reason.
So according to you, Congress is in bad shape…
Congress is going through a very bad crisis, both nationally and in the state. While BJP has become invincible nationally, the same holds for CPM in Kerala. Both are fascist parties and have strong leaders.
How can Congress be saved?
There is a powerful section that thinks that LDF should not come to power for a third time. They also realise that the current leadership is not capable of rescuing the Congress and they look to Shashi Tharoor as an option. He is like a magnet and can attract all sections of people. Only he can save Congress from the current crisis.
But do you think other senior Congress leaders like V D Satheesan, K C Venugopal, and Ramesh Chennithala will approve of that?
By 2026, Tharoor will become such a formidable force that everyone will have to accept his leadership. The current two main groups — A and I — will vanish and there will be two new groups — the Tharoor group and the anti-Tharoor group.
But will Tharoor be there in Congress in 2026?
(Laughs) That indeed is the big question. He should be in Congress until Congress leaders push him out of the party.
Tharoor himself has said that he has many other options...
That’s true. Tharoor may have many options but the question is whether people have that many options. (laughs out).
How do you compare the two main fronts in Kerala?
LDF governments have always been less corrupt and more efficient than the UDF. But law and order issues and political violence are more prevalent during LDF rule.
Do you see any chance for BJP in Kerala?
Only if either LDF or UDF disintegrates.
Which of the two is more likely to disintegrate?
What do you think will happen in the 2024 LS elections?
Nobody expects Congress to come back to power in 2024. But still, Congress may have the upper hand in Kerala as the fight is between BJP and Congress.
How do you assess Rahul Gandhi?
Rahul Gandhi is not that inferior a political leader. Problem is that he is not getting proper advice. Also, Congress’ organisational structure is very weak.
You have been very vitriolic in your attacks on political leaders during TV debates... especially against CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
I attack Pinarayi more because there are not many who oppose him. People are scared to criticise him. Hence, I do that.
The way you attack him, one gets a feeling that you have some personal issues with him…
No. I have no personal grouse against him. I oppose him because he is anti-democratic. Unlike his predecessors, Pinarayi Vijayan is very obstinate.
Some call you Sanghi... Are you one?
I’m not. There are two sets of people who brand me so. One is SDPI and the other is a section in the CPM.
So what do you think of RSS?
Both RSS and CPM are fascist organisations, theoretically. If ultranationalism is the foundation of the RSS, CPM has placed working-class politics at its core. Both are totalitarian and are against democracy.
Are you still a member of CPI?
Why did you choose CPI?
Because CPI is a good party. (laughs)
Earlier, you said CPM is a totalitarian party. How about CPI?
CPI has lost its totalitarian edge after working in a democratic process all these years.
Do you think CPI and Congress can join hands again?
I don’t think so. Congress is not the old Congress. Earlier, it had many progressive elements. Many things have changed in Congress.
You are someone who attacks the LDF government the most. Have CPI leaders ever asked you to stop?
No CPI leader has ever told me to stop.
Did you expect the LDF to sweep the 2021 elections?
To a certain extent, yes. It was clear after the panchayat elections. People wanted a strong leader at that point in time. People knew that if Congress wins, there will be no unity.
The joke in Left circles is that what helped them the most is the loose talk by people like you, K M Shajahan, and C R Neelakantan…
Let them say so. India is a free country; everyone has the freedom to say anything. (laughs)
Some say Pinarayi Vijayan is invincible. Do you think so?
To some extent. He is very powerful within the party. Opposition is very weak. Also, the opposition leader is the governor. (laughs)
How do you look at M V Govindan, the current CPM state secretary?
He is the best choice for the post. He has a sound theoretic base and is not at all corrupt. He belongs to the parippuvada -kattan-chaaya breed of communists. His family is also honest.
Do you think he is capable of asserting the party’s will over the government’s?
He is capable of correcting the rightist deviations in the CPM. I believe he will be capable of bringing the party on the correct track.
Where do you foresee the CPM in the post-Pinarayi era? Are there any good leaders?
CPM has a very good lineup of second- and third-rung leaders. It has no dearth of good leaders.
A K Antony’s son Anil Antony courted controversy by not toeing the Congress line on BBC’s Modi documentary. How do you assess Antony?
It is very tough to remain corruption-free in the Congress. But Antony could. That is his only contribution to politics.
One politician you have always been soft on is P C George. Why so?
Maybe because we both have the same characteristics. (laughs) I like him a lot. He is not fake like other politicians. I also like Vellappally Natesan. They both don’t believe in the political correctness of the current times either.
At times, you make fun of political leaders without any decency. Why do you say so?
Maybe because I am an indecent person (laughs). Decency is relative, I believe. I come from a village and we tell everything openly.
We have seen you addressing many political leaders using their caste names...Even those who otherwise don’t use caste surnames... Is it the right thing to do?
Caste is a social reality. We can’t ignore caste just like that. There is caste in everything. In fact, caste is more important than religion in India. Maybe it is wrong, but I am like this. (Chuckles).