Pinarayi Vijayan is a Left leader who does not believe in wearing his ideology on his sleeve. But, while he has done well to push for a technological approach to Kerala’s problems, his call to support the CPI(M)-called general strike on September 2 shows that he considers his role as party boss superior to that of his elected position as chief minister.
The standard caricature of a communist leader is that of one who opposes development, technology and largely anything that is seen as “Western”. But unlike fellow comrades, Vijayan is not against development and technology. His encouragement to industry and push for technology rivals only the thrust his predecessor Oommen Chandy gave in these areas. Vijayan’s bête noire VS Achuthanandan might fit the above caricature, but the 22nd chief minister of Kerala has proved to be a different kettle of fish.
To increase the administration’s reach to the people, especially the youth, in July Vijayan started an official facebook page for the chief minister’s office. This is in addition to his personal page on facebook. For the leader of a party that not very long ago held strikes against introducing computers in government offices, Vijayan’s social media initiatives in the chief minister’s office are a sign of how things have changed.
But every now and then the communist leader in Vijayan towers over the chief minister he is. The comrade speaking for the rights of the proletariat overshadows the head of the government who is duty-bound to protect the interests and safety of every Keralite.
A facebook post by Vijayan on August 26 called everyone to extend their support to a September 2 general strike. He asked for online support on facebook and twitter, with a banner “#WorkersStrikeBack’.
On the face of it asking people to support a strike should not be a problem, because, the right to protest is enshrined in our Constitution and it is an effective tool to maintain a healthy democracy.
But the problem is in the nature of that “strike”. Protests in India, especially in Kerala and invariably by Left parties, are violent. Public property is destroyed, people are attacked and in the process the State exchequer loses crores of rupees. The success of a protest is measured in the level of public participation in it — and parties intimidate and use violence to ensure participation and call it a “success”.
Given this, Vijayan’s facebook post can be interpreted as an endorsement to the violence that is likely to be unleashed on September 2 and it will embolden the party cadre working towards making the strike a “success”.
As a political leader Vijayan is well within his rights to call for support, but as the chief minister he is wrong. He could have reassured the public that their right to free movement and their right to work will be protected by the State.
In the light of his pro-protest post, his suggestion that Onam celebrations in government offices should be minimised to increase output reads hollow.
Pinarayi Vijayan’s call to support a strike shows that you might take a communist out of the AKG Bhavan and put him in Cliff House (the official residence of the Kerala chief minister), but you can’t take deep-rooted ideologies out of him.