With the renewed demand for investigation against the Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha and veteran Congress leader from Kerala ,PJ Kurien, by the Suryanelli rape survivor, veteran Communist leader VS Achuthanandan has got a shot in the arm for his unique brand of politics.
No sooner than the girl and her family spoke to the overcrowded Kerala media, repeating their earlier charge that Kurien was indeed involved, Achuthanandan jumped into the fray. He conveniently forgot the fact that both the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court had let off the Congress leader, while he was the chief minister.
In his fiery style, he demanded the resignation of Kurien as the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman and wanted the state government to reinvestigate the case.
In the process, Achuthanandan directly implicated his party as well by charging that the political secretary of former CPM chief minister EK Nayanar and former Accountant General MK Damodaran were instrumental in getting Kurien off the hook. He also alleged that Sibi Mathews, a former DGP close to his party — and the state’s present Information Commissioner appointed by his government — who investigated the case, had played a “double role”.
Achuthanandan was at his predictable strategy again: in one single sweep, put both the Congress government and his party in the dock by getting hold of any corruption or sex scandal that makes news.
He specialises in sex scandals, which are easy to come by in the state. Prior to becoming the chief minister last time, he had even bragged that he would send people involved in such cases to jail in hand-cuffs. Although he failed to deliver on the promise, he hasn’t stopped his non-stop demands for “justice”.
In the present atmosphere of middle class outrage against corruption and sex scandals (particularly in Kerala) his shrill voice gets instant public support. Unsurprisingly, he is the most popular politician in Kerala.
But what is baffling is that for a politician of his stature and popularity, his brand of politics is almost entirely based on scandals. Is he the original Arvind Kejriwal of Indian politics?
Not entirely, for Kejriwal’s shoot-and-scoot is about corruption, whereas Achuthanandan’s portfolio has a good mix of sex and sleaze in addition to money. But the strategy of being a perpetual scandal-monger, whether in power or not, is similar.
After being a solid beneficiary of the establishment for years — both in his party and in the government (he was a wily party secretary and later, the chief minister) — the veteran leader is a now a loose cannon. He just keeps firing shots whenever he senses a scandal that can dent both the ruling coalition and his own party.
Not surprisingly, nobody except him, benefits.
Not even the “victims” that he purportedly speaks up for.
There is no point in judging whether Kurien was innocent or guilty when the Supreme Court itself had exonerated him in 2007. The SC had indeed said that the state government could approach the magistrate’s court for a re-investigation. Had Achuthanandan been really serious about the case, he could have done exactly that because in 2007, when the SC pronounced its judgment, he was the chief minister of Kerala.
Perhaps, there was no political gain for such a move and hence the allegations just faded away. Now that the survivor has spoken again and the state’s media has made it their prime time obsession, he is firing from the former’s shoulders. Chief minister Oomen Chandy is certainly justified when he asks “Why now, when two CPM chief ministers had the opportunity to take action?”
In fact, it was the investigation team of the CPM government which said there was no evidence against Kurien.
This is where Achuthanandan and his politics of scandal-mongering needs to be decoded.
While most chief ministers struggle to create a socio-economic development record while in office, Achuthanandan had a relatively easy job. During his tenure as the chief minister of Kerala, he had practically nothing to show on development, other than endlessly delayed projects, empty promises and dilapidated public infrastructure.
However, what he scored big was on scandals. Fortunately for him, even before he assumed the office of the chief minister, the state had enough number of scandals in which minor girls had been trafficked and abused. The curious mix of salacious details and outrage made scandals the staple of the state’s popular media, and Achuthanandan found his firepower from what was selling well.
He hasn’t stopped since then.
Did anybody benefit other than him?
On the other hand, perhaps it’s his party that has been hit the hardest by Achuthanandan’s brand of politics. Both the state and the central leadership are at a loss as to what to do with him, when he is deliberately chipping away at the party’s political and electoral assets by holding state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan accountable for the “Lavlin” scandal, in which a Canadian company had allegedly paid kickbacks.
He was censured, demoted from the Politburo and publicly sidelined; but the veteran got back to his old devious tactic when the leadership withdrew fire.
While the CPM has exonerated Vijayan of any wrongdoing and has reiterated its stand that the CBI investigation against him is politically motivated to destroy the party, Achuthanandan, both by insinuation and direct charges, hasn’t changed his position on the case.
Given his inflated crusader image, his stand on “Lavlin” case has been a serious headache for the CPM. His detractors say that his target is Vijayan and the grouse is purely personal. In his tirade against Vijayan, he doesn’t care if it hurts the party because in his agenda, it is always him who is the protagonist and the winner.
In his political game of scandal-mongering, Achuthanandan doesn’t mind joining hands with people who have questionable character. Recently, his links with two dubious “characters” — one an alleged wheeler-dealer and the other, a person facing criminal cases — had raised eyebrows. It was pointed out that if the veteran leader was really clean as his followers claim, he shouldn’t have been in the company of these two.
The Suryanelli case is not the first scandal that Achuthanandan has set his eyes on, neither would it be the last. As long as the state’s overcrowded media seeks to survive on scandals, Achuthanandan’s strategy is fairly-well cut. He just needs to pick on what is trending and spice it up.
In fact, a promising young leader of his own party and member of Parliament, MB Rajesh had once remarked that this style of politics didn’t help people anyway. “The real problems of society are taking a back seat and this is an easy way of getting instant publicity,” he had said two years ago
Is it a reflection of the socio-cultural milieu of the state or the times that we live in? Or is he the beneficiary of the desperately competitive media that once invented fantasies like the “ISRO spy case” and ruined the lives of many?
Whichever way one looks at it, Achuthanandan’s political bankruptcy is too hard to ignore.