Does a Class VII dropout politician have the right to criticise Sceintific luminaries?

published on July 14, 2008

Cong questions CM’s qualification to criticise Kalam

Pioneer News Service | Thiruvanathapuram

Does a Class VII dropout politician have the right to criticise one of the most famous luminaries of the country in rustic language just because the politician happens to be a figure popular among the working class people and a Communist? Does a former President stand beyond all criticisms in whatever language in a country where the President of (perhaps) the largest political party could term a Chief Minister as Merchant of Death?

“Of course, it is an issue which would be seen according to the position you take,” says a sociology professor of the University of Calicut. But the general feeling among the elite and the middle class of Kerala is that octogenarian Marxist leader and Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had cross all limits of decency in his criticism of former President APJ Abdul Kalam. Incidentally, the Opposition in Kerala Assembly also thinks so.

The point in question is a reference made by Achuthanandan to Kalam as one who sent fire-cracker rockets upwards into the sky. The reference was not altogether harmless given the habits of Achuthanandan, but there were takers for the description in some camps, indeed.

But the State Assembly on Monday saw chaotic scenes as Opposition leaders strongly criticised VS Achuthanandan’s remarks ‘belittling’ the former President. He had on Friday, during a Press conference, allegedly shown Kalam in ‘poor light’ while defending the Left stand on the controversial India-US nuclear deal.

Asked what he had to say about the fact that even Kalam had approved the nuclear agreement, Achuthanandan said, “Kalam, like ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair and his predecessor Kasturirangan, have sent only Vaanams (fire-cracker rockets).”

Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and MM Hassan had reacted sharply to the VS statement on Saturday itself, but G Karthikeyan, former Minister and the Congress’s deputy leader in Kerala Assembly, brought the issue to the House on Monday morning. Karthikeyan said that it had become a habit of CPI(M) leaders to speak ill of all those who were opposed to that party’s ideology.

“Please stop this habit of yours of portraying in poor light all those who don’t think on your lines. Presidents will come and go, but remember Kalam is a renowned space scientist,” Karthikeyan said.

He also questioned the qualifications of CPI(M) leaders who opposed the nuclear deal, including Achuthanandan and State secretary Pinnarayi Vijayan. CPI(M) legislator VN Vasavan had on Friday moved an unofficial resolution in the Assembly, asking the Central Government to not sign the deal. Karthikeyan asked to the thumping of desks by Opposition members. Achut-hanandan has studied up to Class VII, while Vasavan has not completed his Class 12 and Piarayi Vijayan is a graduate.

The Congressmen would have liked Karthikeyan’s attack against Achuthanandan, but they would not like the point a senior BJP leader in the State made. “I don’t say what VS said about Kalam was appropriate. But what right does the Congress have to criticise Achuthanandan when one recalls the attacks their own leaders have made against eminent personalities of proven track-records?” he asked.

The BJP leader said that if Achuthanandan’s criticism against Kalam had come as a result of his supposedly sincere sentiments about the nuclear deal. But a derogatory and defamatory statement from Congress president Sonia Gandhi against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had come when there was no situation that warranted it.


“She termed Modi the Merchant of Death. If she was referring to the alleged massacre of Muslims in 2002 – we have a different view of that – do the Congressmen remember what her own predecessors had done to the Sikhs in Delhi in 1984?” he asked.

However, the sociology professor was more realistic. He said the elite and the middle class could think Achuthan-andan was wrong, but he had with that statement communicated to the people he cared in the most effective way. “It is the simple and effective communication skills that make a leader. You may not like it, but there are people who like it,” he said.

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