Pinarayi Vijayan carrying out Modi’s agenda says Appukuttan Vallikkunnu

A former CPM state committee member and ex associate editor of party mouthpiece Deshabhimani, Appukuttan Vallikkunnu spoke to TNIE about why the 2024 polls brought in an invisible change in the country’s political landscape.
Appukuttan Vallikkunnu
Appukuttan VallikkunnuPhoto | Express

How do you assess the recent elections that have brought significant changes to both national and state politics?

Counting this, there have now been two historically significant elections in the country after Independence. The first one was after the Emergency. As per Marxian principles, different sections of society will always be on a confrontational path with the ruling party. When there’s an attempt to prevent this, there is bound to be a historical uprising from among the masses.

In 1977, we saw such an uprising. Back then, an invisible power of the masses dealt a major blow to the arrogance of those in power at the time. I believe such an invisible power was evident in the recent polls too. Modi’s majority is less than what most other prime ministers got. Last time, the BJP had 303 seats, which was about 56% of the Parliament’s total strength.

After this shocking result, they are unable to attain the magical figure of 272 without the support of allies. A coalition government under Modi will have big consequences and we are already witnessing indications of that. How and when this is going to unravel is difficult to predict. We can only wait and watch.

How will the Lok Sabha election results reflect in Kerala’s political landscape?

The CM said this election was a referendum on LDF’s performance too. While examining the results, we need to understand that this was not just another Lok Sabha election. The second consecutive term in the state was projected as his (Pinarayi’s) own achievement. Also, the public relations department, which comes under the CM, spent lakhs to present a victory song in the second term and give indications of a third term. Let’s examine what happened in Punnapra-Vayalar, which holds a special significance for communists. The EMS government, before the swearing-in ceremony in 1957, went to Punnapra-Vayalar and paid floral tributes to the martyrs of the uprising.

This election, the CPM-led LDF not only witnessed an erosion in votes in this area too, but more importantly, the BJP emerged on top there. A district secretary of the party, who contested the elections, said BJP has come first in many communist citadels in Kannur... areas where the party workers have attained martyrdom. I’m not pointing out why this has happened or the danger this poses. I’m pointing out the fact that the election shock that Kerala has delivered to the Left parties is far higher, and one which will have far-reaching consequences, than what it has given to Narendra Modi.

Meanwhile, Suresh Gopi has stated that he will be one of BJP’s main faces in the next assembly elections. That’s very important. There are already indications that BJP has been able to politically influence people in communist pockets. To overcome the situation, we need to see how CPM responds to the challenge. But I don’t have any hope. The chief minister and captain of the government wrote on Facebook that the party would take corrective steps if there are any faults. The question is what are the faults. I don’t think the CM has realised his mistakes, just like Modi could not realise his.

What’s your take on the situation of CPM and its leaders in Kerala?

The situation in Kerala is even more grave. What’s peculiar in Kerala is that Pinarayi Vijayan was the CPM secretary for 15 years. And he has been heading the Left government for the past eight years. He is the one who is controlling both the party and the government. Pinarayi’s credibility has eroded completely. The loss of credibility is not because of any ideological issues. One is the issue of corruption. Let’s keep aside the Lavalin issue. A judicial body has come out with strong evidence against him and his daughter. It’s a different matter what the final verdict will be. On the issue, no-confidence motions have come up in the assembly at various times. We need to understand that the first EMS government’s credibility was that it stood against corruption.

It is in this context that we should understand what happened in 2016, when Pinarayi Vijayan visited Prime Minister Modi after taking office. Pinarayi himself told the media that the Prime Minister asked him to consider the Prime Minister’s home as his own. Later, Modi came down to Pathanamthitta for the last assembly election and alleged that he knew where the gold smuggling took place. He repeated this allegation in the recent Lok Sabha election, saying that everyone knew what was happening in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO). Despite these serious allegations, Pinarayi did not protest strongly or clarify.

Let me tell you another recent incident that illustrates Pinarayi’s politics and stand against BJP and Modi. Pinarayi was supposed to attend a meeting in Kolkata. It was a historic meeting for CPM, intended to lay the foundation stone for a memorial for Jyoti Basu. Nitish Kumar was to inaugurate the function, and Pinarayi was a key speaker. However, Nitish Kumar did not attend the meeting, and a week later, he joined the NDA. As the only CPM chief minister, Pinarayi had an obligation to attend the function. He did not attend the function in Kolkata, which was decided months earlier, and instead chose to receive the Prime Minister in Kochi. According to my sources, Minister Rajeeve was supposed to receive Modi as per protocol, but instead, Pinarayi came down to meet him. A photo was released the next day showing him shaking hands with Modi, with the governor standing beside them in a peevish mood. On probing, I came to understand that the photo was taken by a PRD photographer from Thiruvananthapuram and released by the CMO. The photo sent out a message that regardless of what the BJP state leaders tried to do, Pinarayi and Modi were close, and nothing would happen to him.

The context of the meeting between Pinarayi and Modi was that summons and notices were issued against his daughter in the CMRL case. Pinarayi, the only chief minister of the CPM and the Left in India, did not campaign anywhere, let alone in Tripura or West Bengal. CPM is part of the INDIA bloc, but he did not campaign outside Kerala. Instead, the day after the elections in Kerala, he opted to take a 21-day break and travel outside India. Why did he not campaign for the INDIA bloc elsewhere in India?

Do you think Pinarayi and Modi reached an understanding?

On the one hand, CPM set bringing down Modi from power as its primary task. On the other hand, a CPM politburo member, after his first visit to New Delhi as chief minister, said that the PM told him to consider the house as his own. The relationship between the two started several years back. CPM and RSS made a deal after Pinarayi Vijayan became the chief minister. There was a meeting with RSS and Pinarayi’s only demand was not to include BJP in the meeting. Thus without BJP leaders’ presence, Pinarayi held a meeting with RSS at a hotel in Thiruvananthapuram. He is implementing everything according to Modi’s wishes. It’s accurate to say that all roads for Pinarayi lead to Modi. There are several people, including K V Thomas, appointed with cabinet rank, to manage the crises Pinarayi faces. We saw the report prepared by Thomas to secure approval for the SilverLine project, which bypassed all usual procedures. There are numerous such instances.

It’s difficult to imagine this being rectified. The Kerala CPM has undergone big changes, and now, several external forces influence its decisions.

Do you think the Exalogic issue has been discussed in the CPM state committee?

Exalogic is a minor issue. There are far major issues in CPM. They are strengthening the right-wing and Hindutva forces here. Former CPM MLA Rajendran met a BJP leader and Deshabhimani wrote that the party will protect him. The party shielded the individual who met with and engaged in discussions with RSS prabhari Prakash Javadekar. In an article in the party’s mouthpiece, Deshabhimani, CPM state secretary defended the LDF convener who held talks with the BJP. This raises questions about the party’s credibility in the eyes of the public. The issue is not just about the LDF convener meeting Javadekar, but the fact is that Jayarajan said three or four candidates fielded by BJP were the best in this election. Indeed, the people chose those they deemed most qualified. The chief minister later justified Jayarajan’s statements by commenting that if Lord Shiva joins hands with a sinner, Shiva himself will become a sinner. But the party’s credibility is at stake until the next elections.

Are you suggesting that Pinarayi Vijayan poses a danger to the Kerala CPM?

In this context, it is worth recalling what B T Ranadive, a senior trade unionist and communist leader, wrote in a special issue of Chintha weekly when the Soviet Union collapsed under Gorbachev. Currently, in Kerala, Pinarayi is exercising a form of totalitarianism that extends beyond the party. Pinarayi Vijayan’s meeting with Narendra Modi cannot simply be seen as a formal encounter between a chief minister and the prime minister during a state visit. The chief secretary of the state was sent to Gujarat, where he met with the chief minister and reviewed the CM Dashboard. Has anyone inquired whether the chief secretary submitted a report on this? The state’s borrowing from the World Bank and visits to the World Bank were all decided by the Union government. All decisions are being made in consultation with the Centre. It’s not merely a case of calling Pinarayi a dhoti-clad Modi; the development programmes and projects are being implemented according to the directives from the Modi government. I say this with factual evidence. Pinarayi is essentially carrying out Modi’s agenda.

Is Pinarayi Kerala’s Gorbachev?

He’s the Gorbachev of India itself. Please inquire about this... a decision was taken in the meeting held by INDIA bloc in Mumbai. The suggestion was that Yechury should be made the convenor. Then it was reported by the media that the CPM would take a decision after consultations within the party. After going through the same, I said to those in my close circles that CPM won’t be there in the INDIA bloc because Pinarayi Vijayan couldn’t agree to that.

How do you analyse Pinarayi Vijayan’s tenure?

The Left rule in Kerala is like a cycle, with high and low phases and rise and fall. The rise occurred in 1957 and now we are witnessing a decline.

CPM projected CAA as its primary campaigning pitch. Did it backfire or lead to a consolidation of majority votes?

First of all, we should examine their sincerity on the issue. In the past, the party’s campaigning was strictly against the Prime Minister in office. But Pinarayi doesn’t target PM Modi directly anywhere. Rather he (Pinarayi) always criticises the Sangh parivar for all things. Uttering PM or Modi is just to compensate for the previous allegation made by PM Modi. They (Modi and Pinarayi) are that close. The appointment of Loknath Behera is an example of this. Amid the assembly elections in 2021, a scientist from ISRO and a group of Muslim intellectuals — those who don’t have any political affiliation — sent a letter to the leaders of CPM, including Sitaram Yechury. They raised concerns over the statements made by Left leaders favouring Hindutva. They also demanded corrections to it. But none of the leaders responded to the letter. That says everything. I can say that the current CPM government is not the continuation of the first EMS government.

You were one of the individuals sidelined by V S Achuthanandan within the party. Meanwhile, Pinarayi was credited with eradicating factionalism. Do you still hold personal animosity towards them?

No, it was Pinarayi who acted through Achuthanandan and orchestrated it all.

Are you implying that VS didn’t have his own mind?

You are considering it from a theoretical perspective. Back then, when I arrived in Palakkad for the state conference, I realised that the state committee would not include many leaders, myself included. As a citizen, I have spent the majority of my life not just as a CPM party leader but also as an individual who has studied the politics of India and our journey towards becoming a republic. My attitude towards Achuthanandan changed when I understood that he was the only person in the party who raised questions and acted as an opposition. Time has proven my understanding correct.

When T P Chandrasekharan was killed, the CPM central committee decided to set up an inquiry commission to look into the inner-party issues related to his murder. A Malayalam TV channel invited me to a discussion on the topic. During the discussion, I pointed out that the question was based on a communique released by CPM. At the same time, the resolution stated that around 65 people, who were party members or sympathisers, were involved in the murder and it was the party’s responsibility to protect them by all means. I said an inquiry commission would serve no purpose because the party’s central committee had decided to protect its workers.

That night, I received a call at 1 am from Bhasurendra Babu. I was surprised and asked him what had happened, as the call came in the middle of the night. He asked how a communist party could make such a decision. I replied that this is the current situation within the party.

When Achuthanandan walked out of the state conference following criticism and reported remarks by M Swaraj that punishment for betrayers should be nothing short of capital punishment, the discussion proceeded based on those remarks. However, I clarified that this was not the reason for VS walking out. He walked out of the conference demanding the ouster of the leaders who orchestrated TP’s murder.

Are you sad that you were expelled from the CPM?

No. Many leaders, including M V Raghavan and Gowri Amma, invited me to join their party. I don’t need power. I am ageing.

Most of those like Gowri Amma and Cherian, who left the CPM, have expressed their wish to return to the party...

It is a narrative created by CPM.

Do you wish to return to the party?

Which party? You should specify. People like Anwar are now followers of the CPM. Why should we join such a party? There is no necessity. I remained silent for three or four years because the circumstances demanded it. Parakala Prabhakar’s book is evidence that politics doesn’t necessarily require a party.

Do you believe only the Congress is capable of resisting the BJP nationally?

No single party - not just the Congress - can rule the country anymore. I cannot say definitively. Recent events, such as the incident in Thrissur DCC on Thursday, suggest there may be internal agendas at play, like Murali’s sister’s involvement. Their motive appears to be to keep Murali away from the Congress. Why should we align ourselves with a party under such circumstances?

What kind of corrections should CPM make for a comeback?

CPM workers are already aware of the necessary corrections. As a working class party, CPM should stand with the people who are struggling and protect their interests. Farmers, women, Dalits, and tribals are of utmost importance. There should be equal distribution of resources and issues like delayed pension payments, rising prices of essentials and medicines, and unemployment need to be addressed promptly. These are issues the Communist Party has been advocating for years.

Is VS’s absence an issue in Kerala?

If VS were active now, he would have fought for the party’s policies and ideologies. Currently, no one seems to be championing these causes. EMS once mentioned the problem within the party’s Kerala unit. The issue pertains neither to theoretical aspects nor ideological positions but revolves around the concentration of power among a few leaders. This imbalance needs correction to ensure the party’s future. The politburo should give this matter more attention, discuss it thoroughly, and submit a report. However, this hasn’t happened yet. Such situations can arise with any leader; if Modi can fall from his position, it can happen to Pinarayi too.

Appukuttan Vallikunnu now says, ‘I’m not a communist, just another human being’. What happened?

I'm a Communist; Not a Communist Party member. The reason behind this statement cannot be attributed to a single person. As humans, we evolve continually in our thinking and understanding. I wish EMS were alive today because I have some doubts I’d like to have cleared with him. He has written books about Nehru and Gandhi, concluding that Nehru, as the leader of a capitalist party, made numerous mistakes. I would question him on that. Was everything Nehru did truly wrong? Similarly, Gandhi, despite being a spiritual leader, was also religious, a point criticised in the book. However, Einstein once remarked about Gandhi, stating that it’s hard to believe someone like Gandhiji existed in the world. It’s erroneous to believe that our actions alone shape history, disregarding the lessons from the past. Even dictators hold such beliefs.

TNIE team: Anil S, Rajesh Abraham, Rajesh Ravi, Kiran Prakash, P Ramdas, Arun M, Abdul Nazer M A, Harikrishna B

T P Sooraj (photos),

Pranav V P (video)

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