Politicians who have served as chief ministers of Kerala have not really displayed a great affinity for television or sit-down interviews when they were in office. The only times we have seen them on TV is when they addressed the media during official press conferences or when they gave the occasional, rare interview to party-funded news channels.
Now, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is set to be part of a serialised television show called ‘We Forward’ (Nam Munnottu in Malayalam) which will be telecast on Doordarshan and a few other channels. It is being produced by Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT), a government-funded organisation based in Thiruvananthapuram.
The show, parts of which have already been shot, will center around the LDF government’s achievements and what it plans to do in the future. Attended by subject experts and an audience, the show will be anchored by Veena George, a Left-supported MLA from Aranmula who earlier worked as a prominent journalist with Kairali, Manorama and Indiavision news channels.
Vijayan, who was the longest state secretary of the CPM, assumed office last year after the CPM-led LDF cruised to a big win in the Assembly elections defeating the Congress-led UDF. Over the past one year, Vijayan has managed to build an image for himself as a no-nonsense and tough administrator. Despite setbacks in the form of resignations of Industries Minister EP Jayarajan and Transport Minister AK Saseendran from the cabinet, Vijayan has taken on the BJP and the RSS directly in connection with RSS-CPM violence in Kannur. He also staunchly defended the state’s development achievements when Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath arrived in the state with criticism.
However, Vijayan and the media have had a rocky relationship in the past. Ahead of a meeting with BJP-RSS leaders, Vijayan sternly asked the reporters and photographers inside the room to get out. Once while climbing the stairs of the party office, Vijayan rudely asked camerapersons, “Are you done? Let me know when you are done and then I will walk.”
Vijayan, who has rarely talked about his personal life, disclosed a few details in an interview with actor Sreenivasan on the party-funded Kairali TV. The chief minister, accompanied by his wife, said he belonged to an agrarian family and that he lost his father at a young age. “I was my mother’s 14th child. Only three survived. 11 of them died at child-birth.”
Such personal details however may not find mention in the C-DIT-produced television show. The chief minister may not have to field tough questions as well since it will be hosted by a journalist-turned-MLA seen as sympathetic to the government. It will also give the chief minister an opportunity to parade his achievements in a manner similar to what prime minister Narendra Modi does with his monthly radio show.
Former CM and Congress leader Oommen Chandy has never been part of a regular TV show even though he has, time and again, given interviews often with his family during Christmas or Onam. His ‘janasamparka’ (public participation) programmes, in which he directly took complaints and grievances from the public, were a hit.
Chandy also introduced the system where anyone, from across the world, could have a glimpse of the CM’s office through a webcam installed in the office.
But it was EK Nayanar, who held the CM’s office for three terms during 1980-81, 1987-91 and finally in 1996-2001, who conversed with the public, solving their problems often through humour in the form of a television show. In his last term, he attended a regular phone-in programme on Asianet channel where he would take calls from the people of the state, who would call with their grievances and some simply to congratulate the leader. The show was said to be highly-watched on the local satellite channel primarily due to the CM’s witty responses to the people.
In one such phone call, a man from Kottakkal, a place popular for Ayurveda treatment, called the CM’s office to complain of cuts in household electricity supply. After getting the assurance from Nayanar that it would be resolved, the man asked, “When are you coming to Kottakkal, sir for some treatment?”. Nayanar, answered coolly, “Let the rain come. It is good during the monsoon.”