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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kerala Law Academy strike exposes hypocrisy of Kerala Politics

The protest before Kerala powerful Law Academy, which is arguably the first self financing college in Kerala has exposed the hypocrisy of political parties in Kerala who are adept in the art of hunting with the hound and running with the hare. Kerala Law Academy strike is one of the rare moments in Kerala politics when political parties seem to have lost equilibrium while performing the grand juggling act of balancing the interests of caste, religious and vested interest groups in Kerala with their social obligations.

All those groups have conflicting interests and all of them try to take advantage of all emerging situations in Kerala hiding their real intenstions. Successful political leaders in Kerala are those who have the ability to manage these contradictions (conflicting interests) to a certain degree on each occasion. The need to manage conflicting interests resulted in the hypocrisy prevalent in Kerala politics which claims to be progressive but is actually reactionary.

Having explained my views on Kerala politics let me come to Kerala Law Academy.  For latecomers, here is the background.

Kerala Law Academy strike and its background
A protest by students and political parties in Kerala is going on before Kerala Law Academy, Thiruvananthapuram, demanding the resignation of Lekshmi Nair, the principal of the college and daughter of the college director Mr. N Narayanan Nair accusing her of highhandedness in discharging her duties. The protestors add that the college has violated many stipulations of Kerala University to which it is affiliated. They also allege that the land of Kerala Law Academy was granted to them by the state government flouting all norms and currently the land is being misused, violating the terms for granting. While the students wing of CPM, SFI reached an agreement with management (according to which principal Lekshmi Nair will keep away from the college for five years) and withdrew strike, others are still continuing the strike demanding resignation of Lekshmi Nair and action against misuse of land.

The land originally belonged to the family of P.S Nataraja Pillai, a freedom fighter and former minister of Thiru-Kochi which was seized by Travancore government. Later, in 1967 during the time of CPM ministry lead by EMS Namboothirippad the land was granted to a trust whose secretary was Mr Narayanan Nair.

Kerala Law Academy: Refuge of political leaders
Having said the history, let me comeback to the impact of Kerala Law Academy issue on Kerala politics.

Kerala Law Academy is the only refuge of leaders of political parties of Kerala who aspire to take a law degree (LLB).  Kerala Law Academy gives scores of admissions to those recommended by political parties through management quota annually. These leaders aim to gain some respectability through law degree. They aim a career in politics and practising in courts is not their priority unlike those who get admission through merit quota who want to rise in legal profession.

All political parties in Kerala got this benefit from Kerala Law Academy annually ever since it came into existence. It is said that Mr. Narayanan Nair has several files full of recommendation letters written by doyens of Kerala politics for students who would have never got admissions by merit in any other institutions.

Reports in media say all political parties in Kerala are the beneficiaries of the magnanimity of Kerala Law Academy director Narayanan Nair and principal Lekshmi Nair.  They include CPI, CPM and Congress. BJP might also have received some favours but definitely very less compared to others.

The family members of governing body of Kerala Law Academy are in key positions in many political parties in Kerala. While Narayanan Nair is known as very influential in CPI, his brother Koliyakkode Krishnan Nair is a former MLA and now the state committee member of CPI (M) and state president of Kerala Karshaka Sanghom (farmers organisation of CPI (M). Narayanan Nair’s wife was once state president of the women’s wing of Kerala Congress, which was a coalition partner of UDF. While a family member and trust president Ayyappan Pillai is a veteran BJP leader another member Jayakumar is the special private secretary of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan. Lekshmi Nair is closely linked to CPM’s television channel Kairali TV and conducts many shows in it regularly.  

This means the family roots are spread deeply in all power centres and the family tree cannot be dismantled without causing damage to the power centres (political parties). While a CPI (M) lead government allotted land for Kerala Law Academy, Congress government lead by K.Karunakaran approved it later. There had been many accusations against the academy on many counts apart from land allotment. There had been several allegations about changing the structure of the governing body, flouting of reservation rules in admissions, making appointments against norms, conduct of examinations, torturing students, and many more. But no Government that ruled the state bothered to investigate and take appropriate action.
The reason is many Kerala politicians who speak relentlessly against discrimination, favouritism and disparities in public life have either themselves enjoyed the favours of Kerala Law Academy or had used it to promote their cronies. Judges of many courts in India including higher courts have taken degree from here. Thus Kerala Law Academy stands as the symbol of the hypocrisy and disparity of political parties in Kerala.

While there had been some protests before Kerala Law Academy earlier to show that injustice won’t be tolerated, they were all quietly withdrawn. The management had the last laugh always. In the shades of darkness, protestors and oppressors said cheers to the health and wealth of bourgeoisie, while the naive depressed and oppressed were satisfied with the bread crumbs that fell down the table. It seemed that political opportunists and hypocrites would continue to rule till deluge. But they are panicked now. why are they in a soup now?

BJP’s entry gives unexpected twist to Kerala’s political fiascos
The answer is, the unexpected entry of BJP is giving new twists to political fiascos in Kerala. Alleged violations of rules by Kerala Law Academy have been ignored till now as all political parties have got benefits. But unlike others, BJP has not received many freebies from the institution. The reason could be BJP has never been a ruling party in Kerala and lacked the clout. Anyway, fact remains fact. BJP hasn’t received many freebies compared to others with heavy baggage, BJP with a light baggage can move against the management with sincerity to find a solution if it has a will.

There had been only two power groups in Kerala politics, Congress lead UDF and CPM lead LDF. They solved many contradictions to save their skin. Now that is not happening as there is a third group. Though BJP is an untouchable to all mainstream political parties in Kerala, in the Kerala Law Academy strike they are not. CPI leaders are found exchanging greetings with striking BJP leaders. Some Congress leaders have also done that. ABVP is in the joint students’ front. Suddenly, the battle ground in Kerala has enough space for them. If BJP has a long term plan, the Kerala Law Academy strike would continue and the party will reap benefit, if it lacks a plan and will, Kerala Law Academy strike would end.

The strike has exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of Kerala politics. Is it the beginning of a new political culture of sincere politics. Only time will tell.

Let me also add. the culprits in Kerala Law Academy issue are not just Narayanan Nair, Lekshmi Nair and their relatives. Those respected top politicians of Kerala who facilitated the violations of law over the years for their self interest are equally responsible. Those who shared the booty should share the punishment. That is natural justice.