Pinarayi's absence from Kozhikode City of Literature event triggers row

The Opposition alleged that Pinarayi had taken offence over MT Vasudevan Nair’s earlier speech criticising ritualistic worship of those in power. The writer had not named any leader in the speech.
Writer MT Vasudevan Nair and Chief  Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Kerala Literature Festival
Writer MT Vasudevan Nair and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Kerala Literature Festival
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The absence of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the event declaring Kozhikode as a City of Literature – an honour bestowed upon it by UNESCO – has stirred controversy. Members of the Opposition in the Kozhikode Corporation, led by the Congress, alleged that the CM had absented himself to avoid meeting literary doyen MT Vasudevan Nair, who had made a speech critical of the government earlier this year. Incidentally, MT, nearly 91 years old and with health troubles, also did not attend the event. 

Months after UNESCO identified Kozhikode Municipal Corporation as India's first City of Literature, Minister of Local Self Government MB Rajesh made the declaration at a public event on Sunday, June 23,. However, the CM’s absence at the event, despite having been in Kozhikode for a public programme a day earlier, invited criticism from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) members of the Kozhikode Corporation. 

Kozhikode Corporation councillor and Congress member KC Shobitha told Reporter TV that the CM’s issue with MT must come from the writer’s speech made during the Kerala Literature Festival held in Kozhikode in January this year. “While addressing the audience during the literature festival, MT had spoken harshly about the Chief Minister. Now the CM is staying away from an event where MT is invited. What I understand is that he cannot share a stage with MT due to the animosity in his mind,” Shobitha said.

In his KLF speech, MT criticised the ritualistic worship of those in power, without naming a particular leader. Pinarayi Vijayan who was also present on the stage, had at the time been receiving flak for “assuming a position above the others in the party and receiving adulation in no small terms by party workers”.

Writer MT Vasudevan Nair and Chief  Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Kerala Literature Festival
MT Vasudevan Nair critiques ‘leadership cults’: Full speech at Kerala Lit Fest

On Sunday, June 23, Minister Rajesh visited the home of MT, since the writer could not make it to the event, and presented him with the Diamond Jubilee Award given by the Kozhikode Corporation. 

MB Rajesh brushed off the allegations by UDF that the cause of the CM’s absence at the event came from his ill-feelings towards MT. “I would request the UDF not to drag MT into the petty political games they play. They should leave him out of it,” he said.

Kozhikode Mayor Beena Philip said that the CM had to leave the city before the event due to unforeseen circumstances.

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