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Kalam rocket lands on CM

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JOHN MARY Thiruvananthapuram Published 14.07.08, 12:00 AM

Thiruvananthapuram, July 14: The chief minister is getting the rocket for taking a crack at the rocket man.

V.S. Achuthanandan’s remark that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam used to dart off rockets in the air triggered an uproar in the Kerala Assembly today, with the Opposition slamming what it called an attempt to ridicule the former President.

The CPM leader’s controversial comment came at a news conference last Friday while he was defending his party’s stand against the US nuclear deal.

Pointed out that no less a person than Kalam had endorsed the deal, Achuthanandan had quipped that the former President along with Indian Space Research Organisation chairman Madhavan Nair and former Isro chief K. Kasturirangan had “fired vanam (cracker missiles)”.

In the Assembly today, Congress leader G. Karthikeyan wanted to know how qualified were Achuthanandan, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and party legislator V.N. Vasavan, who has moved an anti-deal resolution, to take on the likes of Kalam.

Karthikeyan said the CPM leaders were notorious for tarnishing those who opposed the party’s ideology. “You should stop this habit of speaking ill of those who might take a stand different from that of yours. Presidents will come and go but, remember, Kalam is a renowned space scientist,” he said.

For the record, Kalam, who was in Kerala when he was with Isro, was more a technocrat than a scientist. As head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, he co-ordinated some of the scientific efforts that culminated in the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests.

Opposition members thumped desks and greeted with shouts the poser: “Are all these leaders specialists in space and nuclear issues?”

Karthikeyan left the question hanging for it’s common knowledge that Achuthanandan, a tailor in his youth, has had little schooling, while Vasavan, according to Assembly records, was little more than a matriculate. Vijayan is a graduate.

The sharpest criticism, however, came from outside the House. Former BJP state secretary C.K. Padmanabhan, a Marxist in his youth, said Achuthanandan couldn’t even stitch a shirt pocket properly.

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