A toddy tapper’s son from a sleepy village in Kannur district to the chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan has risen from the ranks.
A pragmatist to the core he represents the modern face of the Communists - wealth creation and ideological growth can go hand in hand, he proved.
The 72-year-old assiduously built the CPM Inc running into several thousands of crores in the state - TV channels, amusement parks, super speciality hospitals, banks, IT unit and infrastructure projects - and the party accumulated wealth under his regime as the secretary. No wonder the party now employs more than one lakh people in party-controlled banks and other institutions.
Once an aide of VS Achuthanandan, he helped his mentor in his infamous ‘Vettineruthal’ or the scheme of throwing revisionists out of the party. Many senior leaders, including MV Raghavan and PV Kunhikannan, then LDF convenor, fell by the wayside. Soon, he became the party secretary with his mentor’s help after quitting the minister’s job in 1998.
But as both nourished parliamentary ambitions, they soon fell out. In the Malappuram party conclave in 2005, Vijayan humiliated his mentor by defeating all his nominees in the state committee. Soon two powerful factions emerged in the state unit of the Communist Party of India(Marxist). He slowly and steadily tightened his grip on the party - dissenters were thrown out or sidelined systematically. As he was getting stronger in the party, a power scam returned to hound him.
More than the opposition, Achuthanandan was in the forefront to corner him in the Lavalin case, an agreement with Canadian power giant SNC-Lavalin, in which the state reportedly lost several crores of rupees. But he never sat idle despite continued barbs and started targeting Achuthanandan’s followers. At the height of the faction feud in 2007, he and Achuthanandan were both suspended from the politburo.
Despite the intervention of the central leadership’s both continued to nurse their grudges and took all opportunities to discredit each other.
But unlike Achuthanandan, development was not a synonym for corruption for this economic graduate. And he has no qualms in citing his colleagues’ blunders of blocking tractors or smashing computers. Known for his administrative skills and quick decisions, he was the one to end the state’s nagging electricity problem as the power minister.
On the eve of the assembly elections, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury did a perfect job blending the popularity of Achuthanandan and organisational strength of Pinarayi and it yielded good results. But given Achuthanandan’s nature, he may bargain enough to let his rival run the show.