Thiruvananathapuram: Well begun is half done, goes the old saying and in Kerala, this now aptly fits the once invincible Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is now in his fifth year of governance. After a good beginning, he has now turned vulnerable.
Even though Vijayan never led the poll battle in 2016, instead it was handled by his arch rival and old foe, party colleague -- the aging V.S. Achuthanandan. The moment it became clear that the Left Democratic Front has won a resounding victory, defeating the then 'tainted' Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the master stroke came from the CPI-M party headquarters in Delhi, with Vijayan becoming the Chief Minister and Achuthanandan getting a mere decorative title -- 'Kerala Castro'.
Thus began the journey of Vijayan, fresh from 17 years of experience of being the toughest CPI-M state secretary, he had nothing to look backward as by then, despite handing over the charge to a new secretary, the party in Vijayan's full control.
Vijayan had no experience in real governance before this apart from being a minister for around two years in the 1996 E.K. Nayanar-led Left government as the State Power Minister.
But he made up with his tough demeanour, giving an impression that he is invincible. It came to a point that, much like in the party, in the government too, he became the last word, with none in his party or the allies ever challenging him.
Incidentally, it was the first time in the history of any Left government, where the Chief Minister held sway over the party, which until then was the other way round, when the governance was driven effortlessly from the CPI-M state party headquarters in the capital city.
None will forget, about how Vijayan 'controlled' the then V.S. Achuthanandan-led Left government between 2006 to 2011.
As Vijayan was running his government with none to challenge him, over confidence stepped in and with that came a bit of arrogance. He declared a war with the media and the common talk was the Chief Minister will speak only when he wishes to speak and not when the media wants him to speak.
His first acid test came when the giant Ochi waves in the last week of November 2017, took a heavy toll of the coastal Kerala in general and the coastal hamlets in particular in the state capital, which left around 143 fishermen killed.
Vijayan, despite being in his office, did not visit the grief stricken hapless families, and when he finally did, many days later, he literally was chased away, for not arriving on time.
Then next year in August, bad luck struck Kerala again when the state witnessed the worst ever floods in a century which left more than 483 people dead and an estimated loss of close to US $ 6 billion dented the state's economy. In 2019 again floods hit the state followed by the Covid pandemic.
In between came another testing time for Vijayan, when he made a move, much to the dislike of many Hindus, and opened the famed Sabarimala temple for all women. This led to a set back in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when the Left managed to win just one of the 20 seats.
Since then, things have started to go from bad to worse for Vijayan. During the pandemic time, Leader of Opposition raked up the Sprinklr issue, where Vijayan was accused of giving away precious private data of the Covid patients. And then came the gold smuggling case, which saw his most trusted secretary and senior IAS official - M Sivasankar go to jail.
If that was not enough, came another shocker when Bineesh Kodiyeri, son of CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was picked up by the Enforcement Directorate and was arrested and put in a Bengaluru jail. Following a huge backlash from the Congress and the BJP, Balakrishnan had to relinquish his post.
Then came another huge setback when Vijayan arbitrarily decided to impose a media gag and came out with a new Ordinance. However, it did not have a life span of more than two days, when the national leadership of the party intervened, and on Monday he had to pull down.
Despite all these lows, Vijayan is banking up on the local body polls scheduled for next month. Generally in Kerala, these polls have always looked positive for the Left, and if it manages to win as it has in the past, Vijayan might be able to ward off more trouble to his 'invincibility', as at the moment he has turned vulnerable.