Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was uncharacteristically candid when he talked to senior journalist Thomas Jacob for an annual edition of Malayala Manorama.
“I was very fearful. I was scared of demons and ghosts. I always stuck to my mother at night. I used to study in the kitchen when she cooked. I was that scared. When I was in the high school, I went to see my neighbor who committed suicide. I could not sleep that night,” the CPM strongman opened up.
So was he afraid of anything now? “I am scared of drifting towards errors. If you are not wrong, why should you be afraid?”
Those words echoed when the chief minister met reporters on Wednesday after the Kerala High Court acquitted him in the SNC-Lavalin case.
Pinarayi does not mind lashing out at the media. Even when he decides to speak with reporters, he keeps his private life out of the glare. Why did the no-nonsense leader choose to let his defenses down in the interview with Jacob? I asked him.
“Maybe because I was close to Jacob. I just answered his questions. That’s all.”
The interview was an unmistakable sign of the evolving Pinarayi, a theme hotly discussed in the CPM. How many of you knew that the chief minister was once a weaver. “You can master weaving in no time. I did that job for 10 months,” he said in the interview. He used to supply goat milk on the way to school.
Pinarayi allows a rare insight into his personal life, sharing trivia such as his habit of reading newspapers while exercising, his passion for ball badminton and his aversion to bad tea. However, he is suddenly guarded when the inevitable question crops up.
When Jacob asked him how the bitter fight with comrade V.S. Achuthanandan affected the party, he bluntly said that he would keep out that question out of the interview. That was the only question Pinarayi skipped in the long interview that took up 16 pages of the edition.
He, however, rebuked the perception that Achuthanandan was instrumental in anointing him as the party’s state secretary. “Comrade (Harkishan Singh) Surjeet came here and spoke to everyone in the leadership. A majority of the comrades suggested my name, I was told later. I was not deputed to an undeserving post on someone's recommendation.”
Jacob said that he was surprised by Pinarayi's answers to questions related to Achuthanandan and M.V. Raghavan in particular. “He categorically said, without hurting anyone, that he did not have any personal commitment to anyone. Around the time of MVR’s exit from the party, he refused to have tea with Pinarayi. ‘Can I be sure if you haven’t poisoned it?’ the veteran asked. Pinarayi narrated everything without malice,” Jacob said.
Malayala Manorama senior picture editor B Jayachandran, who must have shot at least a thousand pictures of Pinarayi in his career, said that he had never seen the leader so pleasant.
Pinarayi remained pleasant on Wednesday. He was not the fierce leader seen at the time of his acquittal by a CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram earlier. Pinarayi then said that he had been victimized by everyone from unscrupulous reporters to great leaders.
He mentioned some mystery forces but rejected the claims that his party colleagues had conspired against him. Maybe he expects his detractors to fall in line after the judgment.
“I am happy to hurt myself amid my efforts to lift the party,” he said in the interview. The boy who was afraid of the dark can breathe easy now.