Friday, July 08, 2011

Travelling with a MLA and his coterie

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo: K. Achuthan

Chittur MLA K. Achuthan, a Congress leader, lies sprawled on a lower bunk of the three-tier air-conditioned bogie of the Chennai Mail, when the train arrives at Kottayam on a Monday evening. But he has the decency to sit up when a passenger comes to claim a reserved seat.

Like the typical politician, he is clad in the all-white shirt and mundu, and is accompanied by three party colleagues, one of whom is a Zilla Vice President in Palakkad, Rajan (name changed), while the other is a panchayat president.

Achuthan was returning to Palakkad from Thiruvananthapuram where he deposed before the Vakkom Purushothaman panel, which is enquiring into the reasons behind the Congress Party’s poor performance in the Assembly elections. Achuthan said, “In my Assembly segment, DCC Secretary P. Balachandran and the son of a former MLA, K.A. Chandran, worked against me, even though I won eventually.”

Meanwhile, as the train picks up speed, reporters of several media organizations call Achuthan up on the mobile phone. He speaks politely to each one of them.

Once during a lull between calls, Achuthan says, “The problem with the press is that they listen to me very carefully and write the opposite.” His colleagues nod their heads.

Meanwhile, Rajan is in a reflective mood. He says, “I have tried 14 professions and did not make much headway. Being a politician is my 15th profession and I hope to make it a success.” The group laughs.

At this moment, Achuthan, who is holding a paper cup of coffee in his hand, inexplicably drops the liquid on his hands, shirt, and the seat. Rajan springs up, as if he has received an electric shock. He begs the MLA to give him the shirt so that he can wash it in the toilet. Achuthan says no.

Then Rajan rushes to his suitcase, takes out a towel and wipes the MLA’s hands and the seat. Then he speed-walks to the wash basin, wets the towel, and comes back. He tries to rub the stains away on the shirt.

Achuthan waves him away. Rajan tries again. “No, no,” says Achuthan. “I am going home. There is no need.” Rajan looks disappointed. Finally, another colleague says, “Don’t worry, Rajan. If it was tea stains, it would not have gone, but coffee will go easily.” And this finally satisfies Rajan who sits down, exhaling loudly.

Of course, in all this commotion, it has never occurred to anybody that, maybe, Achuthan could have gone to the toilet and cleaned the shirt himself.

The moral of the tale is this: power and sycophancy are in a tight embrace in Kerala politics.

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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