Writer’s remark on ‘worship of leaders’ triggers row in Kerala | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Writer’s remark on ‘worship of leaders’ triggers row in Kerala

Jan 13, 2024 09:32 AM IST

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress are sparring over remarks made by writer MT Vasudevan Nair at a literature festival in Kerala. Nair criticized the "ritualistic worship" of political leaders in power, prompting speculation that his comments were aimed at the chief minister. Nair clarified that his objective was not to criticize anyone. The controversy continues, with different interpretations of his remarks from political leaders. The chief minister has not responded.

Kochi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress sparred on Friday over the remarks by eminent writer MT Vasudevan Nair at the opening of a literature festival in Kozhikode.

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The 90-year-old writer, honoured with Jnanpith award in 1995 for his contribution to modern Malayalam literature, criticised the “ritualistic worship” of political leaders in power at the inauguration of the Kerala Literature Festival on Thursday. His remarks assumed political significance as they were made in the presence of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, about whom a song was written recently in effusive praise. A minister even called the CM a “gift of god”.

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Referring to the Communist stalwart and the first chief minister of Kerala, Nair was reported saying, “EMS Namboodiripad is seen as a towering leader because he believed that the power his Communist party got through the ballot box in 1957 was just an opportunity and the start of a movement to make the public a part of a responsible society. But in our political and socio-cultural spheres of life, no great leader is ready to accept a mistake.”

He said, “Concepts of freedom in a changing society should be constantly analysed and corrected. EMS always strived to change that old perception of a few to lead and many to be led. That’s why he was never seen in ceremonial leadership worship.”

While the Congress argued that the words of Nair were indirectly aimed at Vijayan, a few Left leaders claimed that they were aimed instead at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Friday, Nair clarified that his objective was not to criticise anyone, but that if his words prompted self-criticism, it was fine. Still the row over his remarks refused to die down.

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan said, “He said what the time demands today. How power corrupts a man and how methods of protests are struck down today. I’m happy to see that a writer like Nair has reacted in this way.”

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said, “A political leader must not stand amid sycophants. His words are aimed at both the chief minister and the prime minister.”

LDF convenor EP Jayarajan countered this and said, “When I heard it, it felt like the criticism of the central government. There are no possibilities to insult the state government or the chief minister.”

The chief minister has not reacted to the controversy.

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    Vishnu Varma is Assistant Editor and reports from Kerala for the Hindustan Times. He has 10 years of experience writing for print and digital platforms and has worked at The New York Times, NDTV and The Indian Express in the past. He specialises in longform reportage at the intersections of politics, crime, social commentary and environment.

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