Pinarayi Vijayan: New CM of Kerala

The CPI (M) leadership has picked party Polit Bureau member Pinarayi Vijayan as Chief Minister.

The CPI (M) State secretariat took the formal decision to make Mr. Vijayan the party’s Chief Minister nominee in the presence of party general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat.

Mr. Yechury and Mr. Karat held a brief consultation with party veteran V.S. Achuthanandan, who had evinced interest in becoming the Chief Minister once again, about the party Central leadership’s decision shortly before the formal meeting of the State secretariat.

The CPI (M) State committee would meet here this afternoon to endorse the State secretariat decision

Born into a poor toddy tapper family of Kannur on March 21, 1944, Mr. Vijayan rose through the ranks of the CPI(M), fighting poverty and hardship. That experience probably steeled his will to face adversities, which came his way in abundant measure at the time of Emergency and defending the CPI(M) against its sworn enemies, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in the violence-prone Kannur district. He demonstrated his skills an able administrator when he became Minister for Power and Cooperation in the 1996 Nayanar government and proved his worth as a no-nonsense organisation man when he was chosen the CPI(M) State secretary in 1998.

He survived a virtual trial by fire when serious corruption charges were raised against him in connection with the Rs. 374.5-crore deal with SNC-Lavalin for renovation of three hydel power projects when he was Power Minister. A special court trying CBI cases had cleared him of all the charges on November 5, 2013. The Special Court verdict is under challenge before the Kerala High Court, but Mr. Vijayan has made it known that he is ready to battle his way forward, come what may.

Mr. Vijayan occupied his seat in the CPI(M) Polit Bureau after a long journey in Left wing politics beginning as a student activist. He was first elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1970, when he was 26 years old. He was taken into custody during the Emergency and subjected to third degree methods. On his release, he reached the Assembly and made an impassionate speech holding up the blood-stained shirt he wore when in police custody, causing serious embarrassment to the then C. Achutha Menon government. He was again elected to the Assembly in 1977, 1991 and 1996, when he became Minister.

He was V.S. Achuthanandan’s trusted lieutenant when he took on and decimated what used to be known as the ‘CITU lobby’ in the State CPI(M) at the Palakkad State conference in 1998. He was elected to the CPI(M) Polit Bureau in 2002. Somewhere along the way, he fell out with Mr. Achuthanandan and the troubled relationship between the two has had a deep impact on the party’s fortunes in the State ever since. On May 26, 2007, the CPI(M) suspended Mr. Vijayan and V.S. Achuthanandan from the Polit Bureau for their public remarks against each other. Mr. Vijayan was reinstated later.

Mr. Vijayan was CPI(M) State secretary for 17 years till 2015, a time of turbulence in the State party. His single major contribution as State secretary, regardless of what his critics may have to say, was the firmness with which he tackled factionalism, putting down dissent with an iron fist and defending the party during the difficult days after the murder of the Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T.P. Chandrasekharan in 2012. Mr. Vijayan was never reluctant to place himself on the line of fire and has never bowed to please the media. He has softened much over the years, but he still remains a man of steely nerves.