Sex, abuse and politics: Ganesh Kumar's family woes rivet Kerala
The political drama playing out in Kerala, that has actor-turned-politician KB Ganesh Kumar in the centre of it, may just have more twists and turns left in it.
The tears and violence filled Ganesh Kumar-Yamini Thankachy family drama that shot into national spotlight early this week is the top-billing TV show in Kerala right now.
Nothing is more real and engaging than this one - two years of a father-son duel with interesting twists, politics, conspiracy, extra-marital affairs, domestic violence and finally a vengeful wife who wants to finish her husband off politically.
Even as the viewers, gripped by the graphic images of violence and the back-to-back interviews by the wife - both in Malayalam and English - figure out who is the victim here, the drama spilled into the state assembly and the streets of the capital. The opposition in the assembly and the protestors in the streets want the Chief Minister Oomen Chandy to resign.
Ganesh Kumar was one of Chandy’s favourite ministers but not his father's, who is a disgruntled veteran politician who has been out of job for a few years - first because the Supreme Court sent him to jail on an old corruption case, and subsequently because his son refused to entertain him and his cronies.
How does one classify this potboiler? As a socio-politico-family-sex-suspense-thriller?
Yes, these are the main ingredients of what promises to be a “mega-serial”, a never-ending TV soap opera that has captivated the state’s middle-class homes.
The crux of the matter is, however, serious - the wife has charged the minister with domestic violence and physical assault that could land him behind bars under the Domestic Violence Act and ruin his political career. The charges against him are non-bailable.
Ganesh alleges it is a political conspiracy without naming the conspirators. The people who had been gunning for him were his father, R Balakrishna Pillai, and the chief whip of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) PC George. Pillai wanted his son out because he betrayed him, whereas George is livid with him because as the state’s forest minister, Ganesh was not amenable to his interests.
Pillai, who is finding it difficult to run his party - one of the many versions of a local outfit called Kerala Congress (nothing to do with Sonia Gandhi’s Congress though) - has tried everything in his book to checkmate Ganesh, but in vain. As the chairman of the party, he even formally asked Chandy to remove his son, but was refused.
Pillai’s grouse is understandable - he brought Ganesh to politics, nurtured him and even got him elected as an MLA; but once he became the minister, he abandoned Pillai and his party. In Kerala politics, single-MLA parties desperately need the patronage of their minister’s office to survive, but Ganesh couldn’t care less.
George, on the other hand wanted Ganesh to be lenient on an issue related to forest land that he says is crucial to the interest of “farmers”. Ganesh, with the support of the young eco-sensitive brigade of the Congress, was insistent that he wanted to go by the book.
Here came the first twist of the story.
Even as the duel continued, a strange report appeared in a Malayalam daily which said that a minister in Chandy’s cabinet was beaten up by the husband of a woman with whom the minister had an affair. George met the media and told them that the minister was none other than Ganesh.
The minister kept quiet, but that didn’t stop the chain reaction that George set off. Ganesh’s wife met Chandy and complained to him about the minister’s wife-battering and philandering ways. Apparently, she wanted to hand over a petition, but Chandy assuaged her with the promise that he would sort it out.
Chandy brought in another minister and some family members as mediators to handle the issue. They worked out a deal and the minister and his wife agreed to separate amicably without slandering each other. The minister would have to part with a considerable portion of his wealth which would go to his wife and their two boys.
Apparently Ganesh was indeed in trouble, but for his father’s help to avoid a police case. In gratitude, this time Ganesh swore by Pillai and said all their problems were over and he would now abide by his father and the party.
The story should have ended there. But that doesn’t make it a pot-boiler or a mega-serial. After all, the minister is also a known film and TV-actor.
On 31 March, Ganesh suddenly filed a police complaint against his wife for assaulting him and also filed a case for divorce. The photos he submitted to the police were pathetic - of him with black-eyes, bruises and scratch-marks. He resigned from the ministry, said he had no truck with his father, and that he in fact is the party. The father-son story went back to where it all started.
By evening, the wife also went to the police and gave her complaint of domestic violence and released her pictures of trauma as well.
For a change, before going to the police, she also met the press and began back-to-back interviews with Malayalam and national channels. She narrated the story of a womanising, wife-battering husband who is protected by the state Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. She said she had tried to separate from him in 2001, but had settled for the honour of the family.
The politically bankrupt Opposition now wants Chandy to resign. Chandy admits that he suspects external influence.
Even on the third day since the sleaze hit the fan, the opposition doesn’t want to let go of the political opportunity they have in hand, however cheap it is. The wife has more or less exhausted the channels, but they might repeat her story on TV again.
Now, for the intrigues that will keep the state’s family audiences hooked to the story:
Why did Ganesh suddenly change his strategy and go to the police and court, risking his political life? Is it because he didn’t want to part with his wealth? Or was it because of some wily legal advice?
Will he go to jail and lose his political career?
Will Yamini (the wife) also go to jail because it was Ganesh who filed the first case - he also has pictorial evidence and testimonies by witnesses? Can there be a case of husband-battering as some claim?
Is there a conspiracy? What was the role of PC George? Did he script all that Yamini said? She indeed had said that whatever George alleged about the case was true.
Who is the other woman (and the many women whom the minister had alleged flings with in the past)? Did her husband really beat up Ganesh? Were his injuries and bruises caused by this assault?
What will happen to Pillai? Will he get his political life back?
Will they all patch up and live happily ever after as they all have done in the last 16 years?
In a 2006 hit Malayalam movie titled Lion, a feudal politician-father bitterly fights his son, but in the end, the son pips his father to the post and the father repents. Till the disclosure by Yamini Thankachy, Lion, although made seven years ago, curiously mimicked the personal and political lives of Ganesh and Pillai. In the film, the hero also had a fantastic love-life.
Many believed that it was an inside job inspired by Ganesh which painted him as a clean hero and his father, a corrupt and wily villain. What was missing, however, was sex and sleaze.
Perhaps, it’s time for a sequel.
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