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Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi and the politics of tragedy

Over the last few days, those outside Kerala have heard a lot about the state’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan. He was in Delhi for the Niti Aayog meeting and had a couple of very busy days. He had a conference with the CMs of Andhra, Karnataka and West Bengal; went to meet the CM of Delhi, Kejriwal, at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence along with the other 3 CMs but Kejriwal did not want to come out and the LG did not want to let them in; became party to a letter addressed to PM Modi about Kejriwal’s dharna inside the LG’s residence (not sure what the PM was supposed to do if Kejri didn’t want to come out); then went to meet Kejriwal’s wife to show sympathy.

About the same time that Vijayan was politicking in Delhi and basking in the limelight of a fawning mainstream media, the state he is supposed to be governing was going through a natural tragedy that has to date claimed 14 Malayalee lives, and counting, including many women and children.

It is highly unlikely that you, dear reader, have heard or read about the landslides that occurred in Kozhikode district of Kerala on 14/15 June in the mainstream media (I haven’t seen any headline coverage). Must be the tyranny of distance! The situation is so bad that the administration has banned vehicular traffic on an important, arterial road in the district. But the state’s CM who should have been with his people, helping them and consoling them, was busy in faraway Delhi, posing for cameras and poking his nose into the politics of another state. All the while his administration has been twisting every possible regulation to protect an illegal amusement park owned by a ruling party MLA and built by encroaching land in an environmentally sensitive and where there are reports of fresh landslides. And the worst part of this saga is that Vijayan, being the CM, has not bothered to even visit the disaster site or meet the victims’ families.

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This kind of insensitive behaviour is nothing new to Comrade Pinarayi. By now it is pretty well known in the state that he holds petty politicking to be more important than constitutional duties or humane values. There are several examples that establish this. RSS Swayamsevak Vadikkal Ramakrishnan was one of the first victims of the Marxist party’s bloodlust in Kerala and  Vijayan was one of the accused in the case.

Since then he has developed a reputation for being an expert operator of politics of violence in the state. In a more recent example, a young boy named Jishnu Pranoy was found dead under suspicious circumstances in a private engineering college. When his parents tried to approach the Chief Minister, seeking a fair investigation into their son’s death, not only did he deny them an audience but also remained a mute spectator when the bereaved mother was dragged through the streets and assaulted by the police.

There are several more examples of Vijayan abdicating basic human empathy and duty towards his people in pursuit of a narrow political ideology. When two political activists, one belonging to the CPI(M) and the other to RSS, were murdered in Mahe earlier this year, the Kerala CM chose to visit and console the family of only his party worker.

In a similar incident that happened a couple of years ago, when a BJP karyakarta was murdered by comrades just a short distance from his house in Pinarayi, his native village, the CM visited the place shortly after that but chose to not visit the grieving family who was literally his neighbors.

He, similarly, has to date not visited, offered condolences or apologized to the widow and 2-year-old kid of the Dalit man named Sreejith murdered by the Kerala police despite being in charge of the state’s Home Ministry. In contrast, he showed extreme agility to go to Haryana and meet the family Junaid who was murdered after getting into a fight over a train seat and even donated 10 lakh rupees. All because he can use to it score political points over BJP and Modi by furthering the dubious beef-lynching narrative.

Clearly, there is a pattern to Vijayan’s empathy; it comes through only if he can use a tragedy to further his political agenda. Otherwise, he doesn’t care for his people, no matter if someone is a member of his party, a neighbour or a citizen living in the state he governs. Compassion is not something that finds a place in his worldview. Every person and incident is relevant only as a means to further his political and buttress his position in power. Constitutional propriety and basic human values are damned.

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