Kochi: Dr Sebastian Paul, the three-time Member of Parliament and a fellow-traveller of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) ended his 12-year bond with the party with a scathing attack on its attitude towards the media yesterday.
“The CPI-M Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s utterances against the media remind me of the pre-Emergency Indira Gandhi (who later imposed strict censorship on newspapers),” said Dr Paul, noted media person and former member of the Press Council. “It frightens me,” he added.
His outbursts followed an edit page article in the party mouthpiece Desabhimani criticising Dr Paul’s article in a leading Malayalam newspaper defending media freedom.
Vijayan had repeatedly alleged that journalists in Kerala were on the payroll of the “imperialist forces”.
“Vijayan is controlled by a caucus that makes him hostile to the media. He publicly chided me for voicing my thoughts against the attack on the media. I did not do anything that could embarrass the party, personally or ideologically,” he said.
Dr Paul’s bonhomie with the CPI-M began when he captured the Congress stronghold of Ernakulam for the party in the 1997 by-elections to the Lok Sabha. He was also once elected to the state assembly — all with the CPI-M backing.
“He should be more tolerant to criticism. The caucus around him is leading Vijayan to antagonise even friends and he has been continuing this for long,” said Dr Paul who contested six elections from the same constituency within a span of seven years and won four. “Many times I tried to reason with him but to no avail”.
A member of the powerful Latin Catholic Church, Dr Paul was denied a seat in the last Lok Sabha polls allegedly due to party’s suspicions concerning his loyalty. He is believed to be closer to Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan than Vijayan, his archrival.
Achuthanandan, who has recently been ousted from the party’s highest decision-making body politburo for indiscipline, however, refused to react to the latest development. “I’m not in a position to offer my comments on this,” he told reporters.
The party-controlled Kairali TV recently scrapped Dr Paul’s weekly media review programme, Madhyama Vicharam.
Forbidden Zone-Essays on Journalism is Dr Paul’s latest book in English. He holds a PhD in law.
Senior Congress leader and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi came out in support of Dr Paul saying it was the best example of the Marxist party’s “Stalinist nature”.