People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 16

April  17, 2011


On Campaign Trail

with V S Achutanandan


N S Arjun


IN one of his flop meetings in Kerala, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, maybe in desperation, took a crude pot shot at CPI(M) leader V S Achutanandan, saying on Saturday that the people of Kerala will have a 93 year old chief minister in the next elections if the LDF is voted to power this time.


V S Achutanandan is an 87 year old chief minister now but after witnessing one day of his hectic electioneering in Palakkad district on April 5, it is very obvious that he has more energy than a 40 year old! And definitely he is attracting youth and women to his meetings, at least ten times more than what Rahul Gandhi's 'youthful dynastic charisma' is bringing in. And they cheer every hard hitting point he makes about the opponent UDF with gusto, unlike the staid meetings of the Congress bigwigs.


After completing his campaigning in his constituency, Malampuzha, in Palakkad district, VS undertook the campaign in the rest of the constituencies LDF was contesting. He began his day with a 'Meet the Press' programme organised by the district journalists union at 9:30 a.m. Asked about the reported moves of Jamat-e-Islami to have an understanding with the LDF, Achutanandan firmly ruled it out. When the reporter persisted saying in that case why did the CPI(M) state secretary agree to meet the Jamat leaders, Achutanandan answered deftly: “Jamat leaders requested to meet and make some points about the elections. As a legal party, how could we refuse to even meet? But we are very clear that such fundamental parties are against the people and therefore we rejected the offer of alliance”.


After the interaction with the media, VS set off to Palasanna, around 20 km from Palakkad, for his first engagement. As soon as his convoy of five vehicles, including an ambulance, reached the place, firecrackers were set off to mark his arrival. He first inaugurated the new building of the CPI(M) local area committee office and then reached the venue of public meeting. Majority of the gathering was youth and women and they went into a frenzy as VS climbed the dais and greeted them. The chief minister's oratory is not a rousing one but has a very distinct style. Sticking to his constant refrain of unprecedented corruption in Congress-led UPA-II, VS told the gathering that the ill-gotten money is being spent in the present polls. “The distance could be covered by a bicycle but the PCC chief Chennithala prefers to use a helicopter to reach it” says the CPI(M) leader in a dramatic tone that draws huge cheers and cat calls from the gathering. He sometimes pauses, makes lyrical sounds of the words, and expresses them with movements of hands. The gathering is latching on to every word of his speech and reacting appropriately.


The next stop is Kulapully in Shornur assembly constituency. In the hot sun, the people are waiting for the leader of the LDF campaign to arrive for more than an half an hour. Similar ecstatic reception and an even bigger crowd. What was remarkable was that the chief minister spoke at length in this meeting and the people were glued to it, not minding the oppressive heat, standing at every available space. Bitterly attacking the Congress leaders on corruption, he said that he would ensure that the guilty are punished. The meeting finished at 2:00 p.m. Post lunch, he began his campaign from 4 p.m. with rallies at Pattambi, Thirthala and Kootnad. The last meeting at Kootnad was the most jampacked one. On the roofs, on the balconies, on the road, on top of buses, people were crammed everywhere to catch a glimpse and hear him. His speech is wildly cheered with catcalls and applause. He winds up the meeting at 8:30 p.m. He left to the neighbouring district Thrissur for participating in the campaign the next day. He had to travel a further 120 km before retiring for the night. In all, he covered around 300 km by road that day.


This was a typical day's campaigning of the 87 year old leader of the LDF campaign, V S Achutanandan. Given the response VS is getting for his meetings – not just in Palakkad but across the state –  young Rahul Gandhi, who is hopping by air for his election campaigning, must now worry that his words about 93 year old CM for Kerala by the time of next elections would not prove prophetic!