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Bottled: Karat’s home show

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 14: Red power flowed today in Kerala, not from the gun barrel but from the booze bottle.

A public meeting at the end of the CPM state conference in Kerala was called off midway after drunken sloganeering by a section of the audience.

Among those on the dais was the CPM’s supreme leader Prakash Karat, who hails from the state where the world’s first elected communist government had come to power.

Veterans said they could not recall any communist event - let alone a rally linked to the state conference that enjoys the second-highest rank after the party congress in the events calendar - being cut short because of the “high spirits” of the cadres.

Old-timers in Bengal, too, are sure to be stunned, recalling the decades of campaign against “apasanskriti” (decadence) that targeted popular performers.

Karat had sat down after his speech and chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan had got up when the “moral turpitude” communists officially abhor reared its head. Achuthanandan’s speech was cheered lustily by the rain-soaked revellers in a pit right in front of the dais at Kottayam, 200km from here.

Every exhortation by the chief minister was punctuated by slogan-shouting that drowned his words. But he went on, even ignoring an empty liquor bottle hurled towards the dais. Karat, presumably attributing it to the enthusiasm of the ranks, kept smiling, too.

But Pinarayi Vijayan, the state CPM secretary and Achuthanandan’s rival, let the cat out of the bottle when he took the mike next. “Do you think you can do this at a CPM meeting, such drunken hooliganism?” he asked the crowd. “This is a meeting of the Communist Party. It’s no place for hooligans. By cheering Achuthanandan, you were obstructing his speech.”

Vijayan also chided the Red Volunteers, who enforce discipline at party events, for remaining spectators. “You have a duty to check elements that disrupt orderly conduct.” The volunteers later beat up some of the “hooligans”.

The state secretary dispersed the meeting soon after, saying other leaders would not speak. By then rain had resumed, possibly giving the party a chance to blame a liquid less potent than liquor for the abrupt end.

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