“I can’t be a suicide warrior for Pinarayi” – Yet another ex-MP turns CPM’s foe

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on September 25, 2009

Six months after the AP Abdullakkutty episode, the Kerala CPI(M), through its intolerance towards criticism, has now made yet another former MP its foe. Unleashing scathing criticism against the intolerance of the party leadership towards the critical media, Sebastian Paul, a three-time party-backed MP and one-time MLA, said on Friday that State CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan was in the trap of a coterie.

Unlike in the case of Abdullakkutty, who was expelled from the CPI(M) for praising the development model of Narendra Modi, no formal action is possible against Paul as he is not a member of the party.

“I can’t be a suicide warrior for Pinarayi,” he said referring to the so-called coterie’s alleged stance that “anybody holding an opposing view should be ridiculed and criticised”, Paul said while responding to the allegations leveled against him in an article that appeared in CPI(M) organ newspaper — Desabhimani.

Paul, a lawyer, journalist and media critic known for his well-balanced perspective despite the association with the CPI(M), had recently criticised Pinarayi and Home Minister and Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan for their attacks against the media. He said the tone of the Marxist leaders attacking the media was similar to that of Indira Gandhi during Emergency.

Though, Pinarayi Vijayan himself had chosen to ridicule Paul in a public speech and the party daily a full page on Thursday to attack him, party leaders tried to downplay the significance of Paul as a public figure after the issue became a controversy. “There is no basis for his arguments,” said central committee member and Cultural Affairs Minister MA Baby.

Former Minister and State secretariat member T Sivadasa Menon said, “He is not such a huge figure for the CPI(M) to show intolerance to him.” But Chief Minister Achuthanandan refused to comment, telling journalists, “I can’t air an opinion on things you are speaking of.”

However, the Congress party viewed the controversy as a great opportunity to attack the CPI(M) by supporting Sebastian Paul, just like in the case of Abdullakkutty.

Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi termed the attacks on Paul as the latest manifestation of the Stalinist face of the CPI(M) while State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said Sebastian Paul’s opinions justified what the Opposition had been opposing the CPI(M) for.

Paul, who had been presenting Madhyama Vicharam, the weekly media review programme on CPI(M)-controlled Karaili TV channel for the past eight years, had fallen into the bad books of the official leadership after he began to criticised the intolerance of heavyweights like Pinarayi and Kodiyeri towards criticisms in the media. This became explicit after Pinarayi demanded interrogation of journalists, who reported on the sensational Paul Muthoot murder case and Kodiyeri said legal options would be sought to question mediamen on the same issue.

Paul said that he had been in close association with the CPI(M) for the past 12 years, ever since he successfully contested a Lok Sabha by-election from Ernakulam constituency in 1997 and he had not done anything to embarrass the party so far.

“I have knowledge that there are people in the party who are working against me,” he said, adding Pinarayi was being made to think and speak what they were telling him.
“Some people may have a feeling that one should not harbour any opinion that contradicts their thinking. They cannot ask everybody to do so, especially me. I am not even a member of the party,” he said. “The approach of some leaders is of total intolerance towards the media. This is not good for the society or the party,” Paul added.

The CPI(M) had in 1997 searched out Sebastian Paul, then a relatively unknown lawyer and journalist, when by-election was due in Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat after the death of sitting member Xavier Arackal, simply because of the fact that he belonged to the Latin Catholic Church.

He then successfully contested the by-poll as a Left-backed Independent. After that he became MP two more times and MLA once. However, he failed to get the Left ticket in the last general election though a strong section in the CPI(M) had argued for him.

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