An unseemly personal slugfest between Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and new KPCC president K Sudhakaran has vitiated Kerala’s political narrative.
There is a calculated build-up on both sides, with friends and foes coming forward to further denigrate or support the key dramatis personae, depending on their loyalties.
The new KPCC president is widely seen as perfect match for Pinarayi Vijayan, as both leaders have their distinct style of functioning, often bordering on abrasiveness.
Sudhakaran and Pinarayi Vijayan were contemporaries in their days at the Brennan College, where the incidents responsible for the latest fireworks occurred 50 years ago.
It all began with an interview given to a magazine by the new KPCC president, in which he has been quoted as saying he had kicked Vijayan down to the ground in continuation of political rivalry between the two.
Vijayan during his daily Covid briefing on Friday spent half an hour, asserting how Sudhakaran had conjured up such a scene. The CM said he knew Sudhakaran as he was an activist of the rival students union, but he was only blurting out his secret wish.
The CM accused Sudhakaran of plotting to kidnap his school-going children and claimed he was alerted by none other than a common friend. Vijayan said he reacted to the disclosure in his typical nonchalant style and dismissed the threat as of no consequence.
Vijayan unleashed ferocious attack against the KPCC president, lining up allegations levelled against Sudhakaran by his own party colleagues about the latter’s mafia connections and illicit activities, including money lending, havala operations and misappropriation of party funds for personal gratification.
Sudhakaran held an extensive press conference on Saturday, replying to each and every point raised by the CM. He accused Vijayan of dereliction of duty as a father by not reporting the threat to kidnap his children to police and challenged the CM to probe his alleged mafia connections and the so-called illicit activities.
The KPCC president disowned the offending claim about Pinarayi Vijayan being kicked to the ground, saying although the incident was true, he had told the interviewer that what he said was off-the-record and blamed the publication for creating the messy situation.
AK Balan, law minister in Pinarayi Vijayan’s first ministry, who was also a contemporary of Vijayan and Sudhakaran was on hand, endorsing whatever the chief minister had said in his media briefing.
Opposition leader V D Satheeshan alleged that the chief minister’s idea behind raking up a controversy over Sudhakaran’s interview was to divert public attention from the illegal timber trade scandal that has rocked the Pinarayi government.
He said Vijayan’s strategy was bound to fail as the opposition is determined to keep the issue in focus and mount pressure on the government.
The BJP has joined the fray, with minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan, accusing the government of using the controversy to deflect attention from the timber scandal, in which crores of worth trees from the forest and revenue land have been felled under a government order issued by the first Pinarayi government.
The state government has instituted a Crime Branch inquiry into the racket, which extended to the entire state. The Crime Branch FIR has refuted the government claim that there was no mala fide activity.
The Enforcement Directorate has also got into the act, threatening to conduct its own probe into the possibility of black money operations in the name of the controversial timber trade.