Kuzhalnadan is now the shield CPM uses to defend Pinarayi’s 3-nation tour

Pinarayi Vijayan and Mathew Kuzhalnadan. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram Special Vigilance Court verdict that found no merit in Congress MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan's bribery charge against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's daughter could not have come at a better time for the CPM. 

The verdict was delivered on May 6, the day Kerala came to know that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and family had taken off on a 16-day vacation to the UAE, Indonesia and Singapore; the exact date on which the CM's three-nation tour began is still not known.

The CPM is now using the Vigilance Court verdict to deflect any attempts at sky gazing, at wondering why the CM flew away from the country in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections that the CPM itself had said was a "defining one". On top of that, Kerala is staring at what looks like the worst-ever drought. 

"It is to hide the embarrassment it had suffered in the Vigilance Court that the Congress is trying to manufacture and whip up the foreign vacation controversy," a CPM central secretariat member said. "The trip has been undertaken after getting the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Central Committee of the party also gave Pinarayi the mandatory permission. The Congress charge that money from the public exchequer would be used for the travel is a flagrant lie," he said.

A while later, a similar argument was put forward by CPM state secretary MV Govindan at a press conference on Wednesday. He first launched into a lengthy diatribe against Kuzhalnadan and said the verdict had exposed not just Muvattupuzha MLA, but also the media that spread his "nonsense".

He then eased into the CPM narrative. "Now that this has happened, you will definitely be looking for a way forward," he told reporters gathered at the AKG Centre. "All of a sudden, to stave off public censure for spreading fabricated charges, you have latched on to a new thing: the Chief Minister's foreign visit."

And then, in his didactic schoolmasterly style, echoed what the CC member told Onmanorama earlier. "What do you think are the hurdles the CM has to surmount to undertake a foreign tour? If he has to make a private trip, he has to get the sanction of the centre. The party also has to give permission. Pinarayi has travelled after securing these permissions," Govindan said.

Then out came his utter revulsion for the media, which he usually tries to unsuccessfully mask with a smile. "You then present it like this was happening for the first time. You do this out of political spite, because of your communist hatred, your hostility towards the Left," Govindan said.

The CPM state secretary said the CM was just taking a well-earned "interval". He said the CM had even convened a meeting on drought preparedness before leaving. "The decision to travel was also taken after considering the fact that the Election Model Code of Conduct was in place," he said, implying that policy decisions could not be taken. "This allowed him to spend some time away," Govindan said.

Unlucky comrades and star campaigners
However, two things about his media interaction stood out. One was Govindan's remark about the vacation that hinted that not everyone in the party could be as lucky as Pinarayi. "Don't all of us desire such intervals," Govindan said, suggesting that he would not have been able to take such a long holiday.

Two was the suggestion that Pinarayi was not one of CPM's pan-India 'star' campaigners. Govindan was asked why the only CPM Chief Minister in the country chose to travel outside the country when he should have campaigned in states like West Bengal. 

M V Govindan addresses media. Photo: Screengrab/ Manorama News

"The party has drawn up the list of campaigners, and where they would campaign, beforehand. The star campaigners will be listed in advance," Govindan said. "On the basis of this, some leaders have arrived here and some have gone outside. It was already decided that the CM will not go outside for campaigning," he said.

Sponsor debate
The state secretary revealed one more thing: The expenses for the 16-day visit will be met from the CM's pocket. 
Govindan looked deeply irritated when he was asked who paid for the CM's and family's foreign trip. "If you are going for a foreign trip, from where will you find the money," he shot back at the reporter.

"How am I supposed to respond to nonsensical posers," he said, and added: "He (the CM) will use his own money. Will anyone travel with anybody else's money?". The Congress had been repeatedly asking the CPM to name the CM's "travel sponsor". Govindan has now answered.

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