Once results are declared on May 19, and if the exit polls have their way and the Left does come to power in Kerala, will VS’ chutzpah or Pinarayi craftiness reign supreme in the dash to the CM throne is what Malayalis now want to know.
Pose the million-dollar question to veteran journalist and editor of Asianet News MG Radhakrishnan and you have an enigmatic response come your way. “Now that’s going to be the most watched-out for political drama that will get enacted, once the CPI(M) State Committee and State Secretariat meet on Friday to decide who will head the party in the state Legislative Assembly when elections results are declared,” he grins.
Radhakrishnan points out that the public support for VS Achuthanandan is not just an overnight phenomenon, but a persistent wave of popularity which refuses to ebb out even after a decade.
“In 2006, when the state party leadership decided against VS’ candidature, it was sheer public response that overwhelmed the party politburo into rescinding its own decision to keep VS away. The same was repeated in 2011. The only difference in 2016 is that this time around, the politburo did not wait for the masses to spring up in VS’ favour and went ahead to announce the candidature of both VS and Pinarayi for the assembly polls,” he says.
He goes on to add: “So you see VS’ mass appeal does not actually arise from the constant comparison made with his in-party political rival Pinarayi Vijayan, but from the massive outpouring of grass-root support for the nonagenarian leader. VS literally rode on people power to catapult him to being the Chief Minister once in the past and Leader of the Opposition twice.”
Radhakrishnan also points out that CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury will reportedly be present in Friday’s meeting. “Whether Yechury will actually propose VS’ name as against Pinarayi’s is a matter of pure conjecture at the moment,” he feels…and after a pregnant pause, goes on: “Yechury is known to have a soft spot for the aging leader.”
John Mary -the Resident Editor of the Deccan Chronicle newspaper in Kerala- however refuses to mince words when faced with the same question.
“There’s a world of difference in being a Leader of the Opposition or spearheading an election campaign. Here, we are talking about who will become the Chief Minister, if going by the exit poll results, the Left indeed comes to power. Being the CEO of a state wherein you need to be in possession of all your faculties, is in itself an exhausting 24x7 job,” John opines.
“This is not just about being 92 years old. It would only be fair if VS himself is convinced about the factual reality that I mentioned earlier and decides to make way for others. Otherwise it may just end up proving to be a huge political backlash which would only serve to sully his reputation towards the fag-end of a brilliant career,” he reiterates.
Former state secretary and current party polit bureau member, Pinarayi Vijayan is known for his no-nonsense approach and has supposedly run the party for 15 long years with an iron grip.
During this time, Pinarayi chose to opt out of contesting assembly elections in 2006 as well as 2011, following VS being projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate both times.
What are the likely scenarios?
While media is abuzz with rumours that the state party leadership is rooting for Pinarayi as the Chief Minister in case of a Left victory, whether the central leadership too will adopt the same stance is a hot topic for discussion among the public and the leaders alike.
There are quite a few permutations and combinations doing the rounds in political circles in the state. One possibility is where VS gets the chief ministerial berth for the first couple of years while Pinarayi steps in for the rest of the LDF tenure.
The next is where Pinarayi gets the chief minister’s chair while VS makes a return to the party polit bureau as a special invitee and -just to be on the safe side- even the Left front’s parliamentary party leader.
Party leaders are said to be also considering a third option wherein Pinarayi will get the chairmanship of the parliamentary board which is the legislative party’s highest decision-making body so as to make up for him not being part of a VS-led state cabinet.
There are many in both media and political circles who do feel -in case of a Leftist government in the saddle- it is high time VS makes way for Pinarayi not only because the former has had his fair share of being in the power seat, but also because Pinarayi well deserves to be the Chief Minister after having proved his shrewd political acumen and deft administrative skills for more than a decade.
As of now, it is more of a prudent wait-and-watch policy till May 19 at least.