Monday, May 15, 2006

V.S. Achuthanandan - The Virtue of Persistence

The elevation of Sri.V.S.Achuthanandan as Chief minister of Kerala is a saga in persistence, hard work and courage. At 83, when others of his age are either retired,inert or enfeebled he travelled the length and breadth of Kerala inspiring the masses and lead the Communist movement to victory in the state legislature elections. The Chief Ministership which eluded him in 1991, from which he was treacherously excluded in 1996 and which the misrule of his comrades denied him in 2001 is finally his in 2006. What an achievement for a man in his eighties! And the greater honour is the hope and trust that the voters of Kerala,especially its women and youth reposed in him. In the last five years, 'VS' as he is endearingly addressed by millions was the symbol of integrity, uprightness and the fight against corruption and misrule. The people took him for his word for they felt his sincerity to be childlike and transparent.

In the last five years as Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislature, VS did not merely spend his time in quick repartees, witticisms or making fiery speeches on the floor of the House. Instead he learnt quickly that his success lay in reaching directly to the people and alerting them to the nepotism of their rulers and the dangers facing them from the mafia that their policies were encouraging. The reach of the electronic media in Kerala with a dozen channels took the struggles and views of VS to the drawing rooms and the burgeoning middle class and upper middle class who are the opinion makers of society began to admire of this man whom they once saw as unschooled and whom some mainstream media once derisively portrayed as a tailor, a job he did in his struggle to earn a repreive from poverty and a cruel fate that beset him with the death of both his parents before he was 11yrs old.

The image of VS as a rigid, ideological puritan who would oppose any development agenda seemed misplaced when people watched him deliver in flawless English a speech in the presence of Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee at the inaugural session of 'GIM', Global Investors Meet, the showpiece of the A.K.Antony government which promised to open the flood gates of investment into kerala. Though it turned out to be a flop, it was not because of VS who in his speech offered to welcome with open arms any investment with honourable intentions of capital creation and not a ruse to plunder the state of its natural resources or to live off state sponsored subsidies.

The sand mafia and the sandalwood mafia, the plantation companies encroaching on public land, the tourist resort operators who ravaged the environment of 'God's Own Country' to fill their private coffers, the Sex lords who considered it their divine right to abuse women and minor girls, the private hospital owners who surreptiously built up a business of trading in human organs, all met their match in this dimunitive man clad in traditional attire. He would not be cowed down by their threats or trapped by their inducements. Political leaders of all parties who compromised with these elements for their personal safety and political growth cynically described VS as a fool who rushed in where angels feared to tread. They privately chuckled for they saw this man committing political harakiri and noted it was only a matter of time before the combined might of this mafia would lead him to the exit door of kerala politics.

They nearly succeeded for they found friends in unexpected quarters ready to oblige them. The names of the dramatis personae in the conspiracy to deny VS an opportunity to contest these elections need no mention for it is known to all. The surge of protest that enveloped the state following this decision of the CPI(M) state committee were unparalleled in recent history. Never before have so many naturally joined a protest on behalf of a political leader. The profuse outpouring of support for VS and moral indignation at the CPM decision showed the place in which VS in held in the hearts of the common people of kerala. The crafty manipulators and ruthless terminators who had managed this decison inside the CPM beat a hasty retreat once the Politbureau reversed it on becoming aware of the plummeting reputation of the party consequent to it.

The political line which VS put forth has been proved right by the turn of events. There was considerable pressure within the CPM to enter into an alliance with the DIC(K) which had split from the parent Congress party. VS oppposed it on the ground that to enter into such an alliance would smack of political opportunism. He was sure that the CPM and the LDF could return to power on their own strength and mass support which was clearly indicated in the 2004 parliamentary elections. There was no need to enter into a marriage of convenience with a new born political group for temporary ends. Today after the election results, DIC(K) has become a shattered myth in Kerala politics and is likely to sink into oblivion in a short time. VS was right when he warned against such political adjustments mortgaging one's principles.

Though VS has become the Chief Minister his enemies who have been thwarted are not going to take things lying down. They are alert, ready to strike at the next available oportunity. They know that the ocassion to politically finish VS slipped past due to their miscalculations. This would make them more vigorous in their efforts. Let us pray they don't meet with success.

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