Thiruvananthapuram: The UDF has already given hints that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's alleged links to the accused in the gold smuggling would be its key campaign issue. On Thursday, Congress MLA P T Thomas moved an adjournment motion in the Assembly demanding that all other matters be suspended to discuss the gold smuggling and the alleged role of the Chief Minister's Office in facilitating the activities of the smuggling racket.
Thomas, who is being constantly hounded by the CPM for his alleged links to real estate mafia in Thrikkakkara, seemed to use the occasion to vent his anger and launched a caustic personal attack on the chief minister. He called him names, "underworld don", suggested he was a dimwit, questioned his Communist credentials and dragged Vijayan's daughter and other family members into the controversy.
The chief minister looked stung by Thomas' shrill and uninhibited phraseology. He began almost in a whisper. "Is this some ground where you sing foul songs (poora pattu)," he said.
But this time, unlike during the reply to the no confidence motion last year when he avoided questions and rambled on about his government's achievements for nearly three hours, the chief minister responded to most of the points raised by Thomas and looked absolutely in control.
It was not the quality of Vijayan's arguments but the conviction with which he uttered them that carried the day. He speaks in a measured manner, offering sarcasm and emphasis at the right moments like a highly respected but feared headmaster. He can be monotonous but is highly effective.
And in between, as is quite characteristic of him, Vijayan also indulged in a bit of self gloating. "You can never understand Pinarayi Vijayan. For that you will have to travel my path," he said.
Here's another, which a commercial script writer would want to take down: "If I say my hands are pure, it is because my hands are pure. And this heart has the strength to say so." Later, while getting up to deliver his walk out speech, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said it would have been better had the chief minister left the celebration of himself at least to his minions. "This was a bit too much," Chennithala said.
Thomas said it was amazing that the chief minister was not aware of the foreign trips his principal secretary undertook with the gold smuggling accused Swapna Suresh. "Why didn't you ask him where he was going? Did you think he was going to buy groceries," he asked.
When his turn came, the chief minister said there was no reason for him to take responsibility for Sivasankar's foreign travels. Later, during his walk out speech, the Opposition Leader said that Sivasankar was not travelling as an individual but as the representative of the government.
Thomas alleged that Vijayan's relationship with Sivasankar goes back to the time when Sivasankar was KSEB chairman. Thomas said the bureaucrat had used his position to help Vijayan in the Lavalin case. The prominence that Sivasankar got in the Pinarayi Vijayan dispensation, Thomas said, was quid pro quo for the Lavalin services rendered.
The CM said Sivasankar was included in the IAS list during A K Antony' s term and was placed in very important positions during the UDF term. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala contradicted the CM, saying Sivasankar found his name in the IAS list when E K Nayanar was the chief minister.
Thomas quoted from what he claimed was Sivasankar's statement to the investigating agencies. "Pinarayi Vijayan is a fool who signs on even the tissue paper I place before him."
The CM, during his reply, said there was no such statement and that it was concocted by Thomas. Still, it looked as if Vijayan was hurt by the charge that he did his officers' bidding that he thought it fit to buttress his stature. "If you ask any of the officials working with me, I don't think they will hold such an opinion of me," Vijayan said.
Thomas said Vijayan should be the first accused in the case. "If Sivasankar is named as the kingpin of the smuggling, you should be called 'emperorpin' if there is such a word," Thomas said.
Then, turning personal, Thomas wanted the chief minister to say whether Swapna Suresh had visited his official residence the day before his daughter's wedding. He also wanted to know whether any of his relatives were questioned by the investigating agencies.
Vijayan dealt with both the questions lightly, like he had heard a joke. In a ridiculing tone he repeated both the questions and said no.
Nonetheless, when the Opposition walked out they raised slogans against the "underworld don".