By T S Sudhir
Across the Mullaperiyar dam, Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s fellow octagenarian, Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan is fighting the UDF and history, in what will be most certainly the last election of his political career. Kerala has religiously voted out every incumbent government since 1977 and therefore opinion polls and exit polls don’t hold the kind of sex appeal for the Malayalee, as they do in other states.
What makes the April 13, 2011 election more interesting than the ones before is that VS is having the fiercest battle within his own party, the CPI(M). What’s new with that, you may ask. Indeed, not many have forgotten 2006 when the powers-that-be conspired to deny VS a chance to contest from Malampuzha in Palakkad district till a mini Tahrir square-like situation across Kerala forced Prakash Karat’s hand.
The self-destruct virus within the Commie system is showing signs of resurfacing this time as well. Powerful voices within the CPI(M) want VS to be ctrl + delete from the leadership of the LDF campaign. Not surprising considering VS since 2006, has led a ministry that is for all practical purposes his bete noire, Pinarayi Vijayan’s cabinet.
But political events of the last few weeks threaten to make 2011 closer to call than it usually is in Kerala every five years. The UDF, aware that it is VS who stands between them and the Kerala Secretariat, is attempting to hit the jackpot by highlighting the lottery scam. It is specifically targetting Achuthanandan’s son, V A Arunkumar, accusing him of being involved with the lottery mafia in the state.
This, coming on the heels of VS’s reputation of being anti-development, a politician of the old school, out of step with 21st century Kerala, hasn’t helped matters. The VS-backed eviction drive in Munnar soon after taking over, against high-profile encroachers, created enemies for him across the political and business spectrum.
VS has responded in kind. Eager to dispel the notion of being slow on development, VS and his ministers have gone on an inauguration spree. So just in the last few months, Kerala saw work on Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal in Kochi, Vizhinjam Port near Thiruvananthapuram, the new international airport terminal at Thiruvananthapuram, Smart City project in Kochi, and a slew of IT parks in different districts of the state. The comrade was determined to show that the fist could also be extended for a handshake with progress.
But what is so typically VS are the three cases involving three heavyweights of the UDF. The first of them reinforcing his image as a crusader against corruption. The Supreme court last month awarded one year’s rigorous imprisonment to Kerala Congress (B) leader and former UDF minister R Balakrishna Pillai in the Idamalayar dam corruption case. This case was pursued by VS independent of the government for more than two decades.
The strongman of the Muslim League, former UDF minister PK Kunhalikutty, whose name had cropped up in the icecream parlour sex scandal in the 90s, has found the case returning to haunt his political fortunes just before the polls. A television channel brought into the public domain information on how he had got away without even figuring as an accused in the case. The government immediately asked the police to investigate the matter.
With the CVC P J Thomas case in the limelight, the government has also sought the Vigilance court’s nod for further investigation in the 20-year-old palmolein case which Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had been pursuing from the time he was Leader of the Opposition. The prime accused in the case, former Chief Minister K Karunakaran, died recently. The fresh probe is aimed at bringing Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy into the net since he was finance minister to Karunakaran at that time.
Along with these three salvos, VS has also kept Pinarayi Vijayan on the backfoot with the SNC Lavalin case. It is obvious that VS’s image of a non-corrupt politician will help the LDF at a time when the country itself is agitated over various scams tumbling out of the cupboard. The cocktail of CWG, 2G, CVC, Adarsh along with the state scandals make it difficult for the Congress and the UDF to go for the jugular in Kerala.
But will it be enough for the LDF to defy history in Kerala? Malayalees will have the final say on who they decide deserves their punch in the EVM a day before they celebrate the Malayalam new year on April 14.