What mattered in the choice of Chief Minister

V. S. Achuthanandan (file photo)Thiruvananthapuram: The choice of former party State secretary Pinarai Vijayan as Chief Minister of Kerala would have been the only option before the CPI (M)  under the given the circumstances, though it negates popular sentiment.

Voter support was indeed for veteran leader V. S. Achuthanandan. However, his age (92 years) and physical weakness are a major handicap for him to become the Chief Minister. Mr. Achuthanandan, as many watched on television, could not even cast his vote without assistance, though he spoke from many platforms during the election.

The people of Kerala were not satisfied with what a hyper-active Chief Minister like Oommen Chandy has delivered. So, the LDF will need an energetic man if it is to better Mr. Chandy. Development of Kerala requires many complex decisions which Mr. Achuthanandan may not even be able to handle at his age. It is also notable that he was not able to deliver on many of his promises when he was the Chief Minister from 2006 to 2011. However, Mr. Achuthandan has been able to retain popular appeal though he relied more on rhetoric than deeds.

The biggest hurdle in choosing Mr. Achuthanandan, however, is political. While Mr. Achuthanandan has support among party cadre and the people, the State unit of the party is solidly behind Mr. Vijayan. Though Mr. Achuthanandan has support at the national level in the party, general secretary Sitaram Yechury or others were unable to intervene on his behalf now as they themselves have been weakened by the drubbing the party received in West Bengal. They cannot ignore the decision of a party unit which has regained power. So, they took a quick decision without allowing the matter to be debated for long.

Looking at it democratically; the rejection of Mr. Achuthanandan by the party goes against the verdict of the people. However, technically, the legislature party is to elect its leader who is to become the Chief Minister under the country’s Parliamentary system.  Mr. Achuthanandan has only a few active supporters in the legislature party though everyone wanted him for the campaign.

There may be an element of betrayal in this and the party has done it before also. In 1987, the party had projected K. R. Gouriamma as it Chief Minister though not officially. Then, E. K. Nayanar was chosen as the Chief Minister. This victory was not that of Mr. Vijayan, but he gets the trophy as in the case of Nayanar.

However, unlike in the case of Mr. Nayanar, the choice of Mr. Vijayan is likely to precipitate a backlash. The support that the LDF gained in this election may soon vanish under Mr. Vijayan though there is the possibility that he may endear himself with people through his performance.