December 13, 2020
The term of Kerala’s LDF government ends next year. N.S. Madhavan, a former bureaucrat, creative writer and political analyst, spoke to Viju B on the political landscape in the state and provided an insight into the working style of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Politics best profession?
Here I raise only one question: What is the best profession in the world where you can do greatest good to the largest number of people? To my thinking, it is POLITICS since it deals with public good, to the greatest number of people irrespective of the divisive caste, class and creed considerations.
In that respect who was the ideal PM of India? For me it was the short lived, short in stature Lal Bahadur Shastri! He resigned, taking moral responsibility for a rail accident under his watch.
Compare it with Kerala’s Vijayn government. I shudder to think of it! I can think of finding myself in good company only when I recall to mind Vivekananda’s description of Kerala as “Frantalaysm”, a mad house. Has Kerala improved or worsened?
Panchayet election results will be announced tomorrow. Will it end the infights or worsen it? You judge it from the vantage point of a political leader of moral principles to lead and SERVE for the public good of those in most NEED! james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below the Interview!
Do you think the LDF government is on the backfoot following a series of scams that have undermined its credibility?
Undoubtedly they have. And the reasons for that are here to be seen. The CPM led governments used to function under two centres of power, the government and the AKG Centre, the state CPM headquarters. Under Pinarayi Vijayan, the party and the government coalesced into one. He is unfettered. While the extra-constitutional appendage of the party apparatus had fallen off, Vijayan also lost an important channel of feedback.
He started running a chief ministerial form of government, much like erstwhile Jayalalithaa rule in Tamil Nadu and Modi in Gujarat or presently, Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, who largely ignored their cabinet colleagues and relied on a loyal band of officers. Vijayan’s recent run-ins with controversies are partly because his band of officers were often not up to the tasks, or are more loyal to themselves than to him, like his disgraced private secretary, M Sivasanker. The CM’s recent troubles also show how much he is missing political input from the party, cabinet colleagues and coalition partners.
Why did the government try to bring in the Kerala Police Act amendment ordinance that would have curbed the freedom of expression of citizens?
The government was blind to the obvious unconstitutionality of such an amendment to the Kerala Police Act only because it was functioning from an echo chamber. However, credit must go to the Kerala government that it didn’t stand on its ego, and quickly scrapped the ordinance, following howls of public protest. This kind of sensitivity you will seldom see in the central government. In my view the CPM has only reinforced its rights to criticise the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Though the government of Kerala scored brownie points in containing Covid-19, today the state is ahead of many other states in test positivity rates. Where did it go wrong?
It is a developing story and the final verdict on it can only be said post Covid. The Kerala government’s assertion that it has delayed the peaking of the pandemic could be the reason why Kerala is at a higher point of the cycle now, and the other states are at a lower point. Mortality rate in Kerala is certainly low compared to others. Where Kerala impressed me most was that it is probably the only state to have addressed the livelihood issues caused by economic devastation. Many people survived on the universal distribution of ‘monthly kits’ of household provisions and other initiatives.
The LDF government had come to power based on an anti-corruption plank. Today some of its key ministers and the party secretary’s son are facing corruption charges. Has this been a huge letdown for the average party worker?
Corruption allegations in Kerala are used by political parties to create a smokescreen; part of perception politics. As for the party secretary’s son, my question is, why is he not in the party? Marx and early communist leaders had written about the practice of communism within the family. None of the communist leaders in Kerala had tread on that path, barring one, the early Naxalite leader, the late Kunnikkal Narayanan, who also took care to baptise his wife and only daughter into politics.
Here the paradox is that the party leaders are leading a comfortable middle class life, and their children are groomed to be careerists, while other people’s children are recruited to lead agitations or to be ‘martyred’. Unsavoury saga of the party secretary’s son is a good point for the communists to start ruminating over their gentrified family lives.
Is there a serious vacuum in the CPM leadership, in terms of understanding the new realities posed by climate change both in coastal areas and Ghat region?
The floods showed us what terrible things can happen when you go on fiddling with a fragile ecosystem. The Left in Kerala has always been caught in the false binary of ‘development vs ecology’. Stubborn insistence by the electricity department to build a hydel project at the spectacular waterfall at Athirapally is a glaring example. It is a pity that not many lessons were learnt from the 2018 floods, though thereafter nature, at frequent intervals, has been sending fearsome signals to the people of Kerala through landslides and flash floods.