CONGRESS LEGISLATOR from Kerala on Saturday courted controversy after making unsavoury remarks against late A K Gopalan, a freedom fighter and veteran Communist leader from the state who was the Opposition leader in the first Lok Sabha.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Balram, a two-time MLA from Thrithala in Palakkad district, remarked that Gopalan had “affection towards a minor girl”, who he later married “even when his first wife was alive”.
The CPI(M), the leading partner in the state’s LDF government, reminded the Congress leadership about its decision to expel senior party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “neech aadmi” and asked party president Rahul Gandhi and senior Kerala leader A K Antony to make their stand “clear” on Balram’s comments.
While the Congress leadership did not react, several state leaders criticised the young MLA for his remarks.
Referring to a newspaper report on Gopalan published in 2001, Balram wrote on Facebook, “Gopalan, a middle-aged revolutionary had married Susheela after a decade-long love affair. As per historical documents, Susheela was 22 at the time of marriage. In that case, one can assume her age at the beginning of their decade-long love affair. The news report says that Gopalan had first met Susheela and developed a relationship with her when he had been hiding at her house in 1940.
“That means, Susheela, who was born in 1929, was aged 10 or 11 in early 1940.’’
Balram said that Gopalan, in his autobiography, had described about his affair with a schoolgirl at the house where he had been hiding. Susheela, the Congress leader wrote, quoting Gopalan’s autobiography, had waited outside the jail where he was lodged, and that post-release Gopalan married Susheela even as his first wife was alive.
“We can see in this autobiography a minor girl’s love towards an organisation and its towering leader, and reciprocally a leader’s affection towards a minor girl.”
Having joined the then undivided Communist Party at 18, Susheela Gopalan was a trade union leader, one of the founder-leaders of All-India Democratic Women’s Association, multiple-time Lok Sabha MP, and a minister in Kerala’s LDF government.
Balram said Gopalan may be an icon for many people and that everyone has high regards for his public life and parliamentary politics, but his admirers should not insist that no one should repeat details of his personal life available in public domain.
Balram’s comments triggered an outburst of protest on social media and in political circles. Pointing out the Congress’s decision to expel Aiyar, CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said Rahul Gandhi should make his opinion clear on Balram’s “humiliating remarks after his death” on Gopalan, “who had dedicated his life for the oppressed class and had made immense contribution towards the freedom struggle”.
Senior state Congress leader K Muraleedharan said, “Balram’s remarks do not go with the culture of the Congress. His comments against AKG were unfortunate.”