Is having tea with Pinarayi same as chatting up Modi in Parliament canteen?

VD Satheesan
VD Satheesan. File Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The debate over Kollam MP N K Premachandran's canteen bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi provided Opposition Leader V D Satheesan an occasion to recall old meetings that went largely uncriticised or unknown.

It was during the general discussion on the Budget in the Assembly on February 14, Wednesday, that the issue cropped up.

Opposition Leader V D Satheesan sought to make light of the issue. He said it was just like the Chief Minister inviting him for tea in the Assembly canteen. "I would immediately accept the invite, except that he had not made that offer to me," Satheesan said.

The Opposition Leader gave another example. He said he had gone for a meeting with general education minister V Sivankutty's office earlier in the day. "The first thing the minister asked me was whether I had food. I said no. So he told me that he could arrange food for me from the canteen. I said I have kept my food in my room," Satheesan said and added: "These are things that happen so commonly. It is not as if Premachandran had gone to the PM's residence."

There were big shouts of disapproval from the ruling side. Satheesan sounded energised. "If you are still not satisfied, I will tell you one more thing," he said. "On June 11, 2019, the Chief Minister had a guest at his official residence. The guest had come with family," he said and asked them to guess who it was.

He provided clues. "The man was BJP's former president, a union minister, an MP from Nagpur, and RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat's pet," he said and after a pause said: "Nitin Gadkari". "Did we make any noises? A central minister had come to Kerala on a private tour. The CM knows him, is close to him, and so he was invited for lunch. There is nothing wrong with this. That's why we did not go to town the very next day saying that the CM has given lunch to Bhagawat's man," Satheesan said. "So next time when you point a finger at Premachandran, you should be aware that the remaining four fingers are pointed towards your heart," he added.

N K Premachandran
NK Premachandran. Photo: Manorama

When the ruling benches started to make noise, Satheesan said: "I said I had no problem with the CM inviting Nitin Gadkari. But I have a problem with another meeting." "The CM had held secret talks with RSS at Mascot Hotel (in Thiruvananthapuram) with Sri M as the mediator. This has not been officially revealed till now," Satheesan said. The talks have reportedly taken place in 2016, right after Pinarayi Vijayan took over as CM for the first time. "After some time Sri M was granted four acres of land," he added.

It was left to the finance minister to defend the Chief Minister. Balagopal was silent about Sri M and the talks with RSS leaders. However, he expressed disappointment that the Opposition Leader had equated Pinarayi Vijayan with Narendra Modi.

"What was most unfortunate was the example you had given," the minister told Satheesan. "You said you would accept the CM's invite. Your problem is that you view Kerala's CM and the politics of the BJP in the same vein. Are these two the same?," he said and added: "We don't see the Congress in the same light as we see the RSS."

About Premachandran accepting the PM's invite, Balagopal said. "This is just a warning. A red light has been switched on. It'll be nice if you are careful."

Now the opposition taunted the minister to speak about Gadkari. Balagopal gave a reply that unwittingly exonerated Premchandran. "Gadkari is a minister," he said.

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