Antony calls Kerala CM Kumbhakarna

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Apr 12 2011, 07:14am hrs
Mandate-time just two sunrises away, Keralas campaign scape has erupted into a vehement volley of name-calling between the steering stars of Congress-led UDF and CPI (M) LDF.

While chief minister VS Achuthanandan, defence minister AK Antony and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi were quite happy to ride controversy, usual suspects like former Union minister Shashi Tharoor and late K Karunakarans son K Muralidharan were strangely quiet.

On Monday, the electorate barely recovered after Achuthanandan, provoked over mention of his old age, rapped Rahul Gandhi, as that Amul boy of Sonia, when non-less-than the soft-spoken AK Antony stood up to dub Achuthanandan a Kumbhakarna (the sleeping ogre in Ramayana), promptly earning the same compliment from the 87-year old CPI(M)s star crowdpuller.

It is AK Antony himself whos sleeping like Kumbhakarna over corrupt deals. Otherwise, why was he kept out of committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, alleged Achuthanandan, punning Adaarsha-dheera, referring at once to Antonys popular sobriquet meaning idealist and to Adarsh apartments scam.

Just an hour ago, AK Antony had blasted that Achuthanandan now parades as a self-important scrouge against corruption, after sleeping like Kumbhakarna over corruption in administration in the last five years.

Defence minister also appealed to the electorate not to let Kerala become West Bengal-II. Instead of getting mesmerised by Achuthanandans political drama, those who are concerned about the future of their children should keep Left rule out.

Otherwise, Kerala would become the second West Bengal, Antony said. He argued that over 30 years of continous Left rule had made rural Bengal most backward in agricultural and industrial development. Unemployment is a sore issue in West Bengal, sending youngmen migrating all over India in search of jobs.

During my week-long campaign tour through all 14 districts of Kerala, I found all towns and cities had hordes of Bengali youngmen working as labourers. What a pity that a state cannot provide even daily wages jobs to its workforce that they have to migrate over 3,500 kms away from home to earn a living. If Left is allowed another round at the government, Kerala will go the West Bengal way, he warned.

On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi had slammed the left rule in Kerala, which facilitated jobs only to CPI(M) youth. He also reminded voters that if the present rule continued, five years later, they would be left with a 93-year old chief minister.

It was this that nudged Achuthanadan to ask that Amul boy of Sonia whether it was my fault that Iam 87 years old. Orphaned early in life, I had to drop out of school early. This was when Indias freedom struggle was on and I entered politics at 16 years. Where were you before you were 40 years, he asked Rahul Gandhi.

In campaign vigour, the CPI(M) stalwart also did not hesitate to recite late Malayalam poet Subramanian Tirumumbus peppy verses, roughly meaning My old age is no gray hair/gray hair is not my youth/my youth is not the one that bows before bawdy barons.

Although Lefts national leaders like Prakash Karat, AB Bardan, Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechuri had made the campaign rounds in the State, none of them earned king-size audiences, waiting in the climbing mercury or sudden summer rain, the way Achuthanandan did. Congress was somewhat embarassed at the empty chairs that greeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi at their campaign rallies. Although BJP is yet to open its account in Kerala, leaders like Sushama Swaraj logged a presence at the campaign trail.

At the same time, even left leaders do not believe that the crowds at chief ministers rallies will translate fully to votes. Some are also a bit sceptic about the superstarhood that a dramatic ascent to candidature has brought to Achuthanandan. Election time is when all eyes are on the leader and tongues go elastic. It would be too bad if a leader forgets that hes only a leader, quips CPI(M) State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, in a tone indicative that the faction feud within CPI(M) is going to be no sleeping Kumbhakarna after the elections.