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The price for being an unlikely politician

Right now, politics in Kerala is an entertaining one-man show in which the actor, scriptwriter and floor-manager are all rolled into one: chief minister Oommen Chandy. Paul Zacharia writes.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2013 01:01 IST
Paul Zacharia

Right now, politics in Kerala is an entertaining one-man show in which the actor, scriptwriter and floor-manager are all rolled into one: chief minister Oommen Chandy.

On the one hand, he, for all practical purposes, single-handedly manoeuvres the fragile destiny of the one-seat majority government of the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

On the other, the leading opposition party, the CPI(M), by unleashing their Brobdingnagian force into the single task of demolishing one individual, namely Chandy, has made him a dashing hero.

Recently, they put the finishing touch on it: a stone thrown at Chandy's car during a CPI(M) demonstration against him in Kannur found its mark making Chandy Kerala's first CM to take a physical hit from a political rival. This incident has got Chandy all the sympathy and the Left has been condemned.

Why is the Left so upset with Chandy? The fact is that for a Congressman, he is a unique phenomenon. If he were a pious non-doer like former chief minister AK Antony, or a selfish wind-bag like the CPI(M)'s own former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, they would have looked the other way.

The man is mystifyingly unlike Kerala's average Congressmen who act as if they are doing a favour to the public by being Congressmen. Chandy is some kind of a tornado on two feet, spending most of his day among the people and trying to get things done.

In probably a first of its kind, Chandy opened the CM's office to the public. Anyone can approach the CM. This, however, backfired when a man and his lady friend walked in and out came the 'solar' scam that saw even the personal staff of the CM being accused of aiding the scamsters.

It is the chief minister's high voltage people-contact programme and its popularity that has got the Left parties worried. In fact, this has got the goat of the whole political class in Kerala.

Chandy is turning out to be a hideously wrong role model for the average politician in Kerala, or even elsewhere. Should a politician, leave alone a chief minister, be so hard-working and accessible to the public?

It has also upset the bureaucracy because he is reaching over their heads to people and forcing them to take action. Add to this, he has set in motion a number of major developmental projects that could alter the face of Kerala, like the Vizhinjam harbour and the Cochin Metro Rail Project.

Chandy is paying the price for being an unlikely politician. Imagine a politician stopping his party from conducting a bandh/hartal when a stone is pelted at their leader!

It is another matter whether his charisma will hold out when the elections arrive. This is because the electorate in Kerala is notorious for its wishful shuffling between the two equally incompetent and hegemonic political formations - the UDF and the LDF.

Add to it the fact that the Congress in Kerala is split every which way and haunted by the unrelenting death-wish that is its trademark whether in Kerala or New Delhi. The CPI(M)'s situation is no better.

The suicidal war between party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Achuthanandan has made it a wobbling giant. If Chandy's one-man show makes a difference at the hustings that could be a turning point in Kerala's politics and governance.

Paul Zacharia is a writer and columnist

The views expressed by the author are personal