VIJAYAN, THE XI JINPING OF KERALA?
The Indian communists are the admirers of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Xi Jinping and one common thing among those four leaders is the dictatorial ruling. CPM being one wing of Indian communists and its leader Pinarayi Vijayan, who lead them to victory in recent elections held in Kerala, he has made his intentions clear, to be the Xi Jinping of that tiny state. Meticulous planning went into Vijayan’s politics to attain the unquestioned leader status in CPM and the title of Xi Jinping of Kerala.
The results of the April 2021 elections were out on May 2nd and all other states had new governments with in few days, but Kerala winner LDF took over a fortnight to form the ministry. Observers were not sure, then, for the delay and auspicious time factor is ruled because of the proclaimed rationality of the communists. Now it is clear that the delayed formation of the ministry was because of the desire to execute the ‘Xi’ plan by Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala.
What happened during that fortnight in Kerala politics may not be that interesting but what transpired in CPM is certainly worth knowing. There is no doubt that Vijayan has single handedly brought victory to Left and now he wants to ascertain his position and show to the politburo members who the boss is. As the events unfolded it is now clear that the assertiveness of Vijayana was not a sudden happening but is the result of calculated moves he was making for over two decades. That he was not happy with the bossing over of Delhi based, media projected politburo leaders devoid of mass following in their respective states. Neither present general secretary Seetaram Yehuri nor former general secretary Prakash Karat are capable of winning a seat in their respective states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Same is the case with Brinda Karat from Bengal. These studio based, media favoured personalities some have captured the positions in the politburo and are calling the shots in all major decisions including the Kerala affairs. The unhappy Vijayan has systematically built his influence in the Kerala unit by being the long term state general secretary of CPM. He was in this position since 1997 up to 2015. The CPM party hierarchy put general secretary of the party few notches above the Chief Minister of that party. Vijayan as the general secretary used that norm to his advantage and handpicked people of his confidence and put them in key positions both in the party and the Left government.
When V.S. Achuthanandan was the CM of LDF Vijayan always clashed with him projecting himself as close to politburo and won the battles successfully. When Left was out of power in 2011-16, he consolidated his position in the party and became the CM once LDF won the majority in 2016 elections. Once in CM chair Vijayan changed the party narrative, with his loyalists in all important positions, of party supremacy over the government and made CM as the final word in party and governance. Even politburo didn’t question the changes Vijayan brought as CM, because the CPM was no more in power in Bengal, their main fortress and Tripura, their little red fort and it is solely dependent one Kerala for party finances and there is no way to survive for the party by antagonizing the raising star Vijayan.
CPM politburo took the back seat as they felt that LDF is on the way out after its rout in 2019 Lok Sabha elections where UDF won 19 out of 20 seats of Kerala. They felt that history is going to repeat in Kerala, where power changes the hands after every five years and allowed Vijayan to take decisions on his own hoping he will design his own downfall. However, having got that freedom Vijayan asserted himself, cultivated some of the LDF partners to change sides, offered new sops to voters to win the local body elections last year. Since then it is all the way Vijayan and he prepared the ground to build his supremacy in the party. Ticket distribution was made as per his whims. Most of the sitting MLAs were replaced, thus deflecting the anti-incumbency from him to the non-performing MLAs. Rahul Gandhi’s imitation of his father Rajiv Gandhi in placating the Hindu and Muslim communities by offering something for both to placate. Congress party’s failure to take a firm stand against the Supreme Court verdict on the Sabarimala temple entry for women issue came as a gift to Vijayan. The result is historic victory for LDF bucking all odds.
With establishing his authority on the party and all the new entrants in the assembly being his own men Vijayan finally opened up his ‘Xi plan’ occupying every inch of CPM turf in Kerala. The days between election results and the actual taking the oath as CM were used to manipulate the party and its state level leaders. The plan was to subjugate the challengers in the party and build up unbridled personal loyalty. First causality is Mrs. K. K. Shailaja, hugely popular health minister in the outgoing cabinet, who was hailed internationally for covid containment in Kerala. Voters gave her 60,000 majority. Neither the people’s mandate nor the performance was considered by CM Vijayan. It is well known that women were never encouraged as leaders in the communist movement beyond a certain level. That there was no women in the CPM politburo is well known. Any women who feels as next CM, because of her service to party and the performance in the ministry, are shown the door. The political future of Mrs. Shailaja may not be different from that of late Mrs. Susheela Gopalan, Mrs. K.R. Gowri, who recently passed away and P.K.Sreemathi, who held health ministry in the 2006-11 LDF ministry.
He wanted all the ministers to be his own men and pygmies. All the ministers from CPM are first timers whose place is grace of Vijayan and being new to ministry the CM is their guide and mentor. So the writ of Vijayan will run in every ministry. As of today the grip of Vijayan like the grip of Xi Jinping in China. Nothing moves without Vijayan’s knowledge in party or in government. Any attempt to dissent is crushed with iron hand like Xi. Now the CPM lower cadre is referring him as the ‘head master’ and as Xi of our state.
Like Mao, whom CPM see as a model, Vijayan also chose to have his family men in the key position in the cabinet. His newly acquired son in law Riyaz Mohammad is inducted in to the cabinet and he will be the ear and eye of the CM. Murmouring voices are heard in CPM on the Xi Jinping like CM turning the party into a regional mold in the sense of concentration of power in a family. Factions within the party are yet to crystalize but both the disgruntled and the politburo members are ready to strike when Vijayan turns vulnerable. The immediate challenge to Vijayan is the covid19 situation and the economy. Kerala at present have 25% positivity. On the economy front the Kerala economy dubbed as ‘money order economy’ is not good as the Gulf remittance has come down and the Gulf returnees are reeling at the dwindling savings. The unemployment rate in Kerala is mounting with the Gulf returness competing with the locals in the semiskilled job. With not much base in the service sector Kerala’s economy is not that strong and that is reflected in the latest per capita debt of every Malayali. The per capita debt stood at Rs. 46,075 when Vijayan took over as CM in 2016. After his 5 year rule the per capita debt rose to Rs.1,05,000 and Vijayan may have to answer for this if not immediately but surely in the coming months. Then Karat and Yechuri may join hands, forgetting their own differences, to cut Vijayan to size. Any how the developments in Kerala will be interesting to watch notwithstanding the huge majority Vijayan won.