Why is Kerala discussing a steel chair after a New York address by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan?

The internet was divided between those who mocked the Kerala CM for using a steel chair, and those who called out the criticism as elitism.

BySreerag PS

Published Jun 15, 2023 | 8:30 AM Updated Jun 15, 2023 | 8:30 AM

Why is Kerala discussing a steel chair after a New York address by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan?

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Times Square address is trending in the state’s social media circles, but for entirely unexpected reasons.

Vijayan, who is on an official tour to the US, attended a public meeting at Times Square in New York on Sunday, 11 June, and hundreds of members of the Malayali diaspora attended the event.

The event was held as part of the Loka Kerala Sabha (LKS), a state government platform that connects Malayalis across the globe.

However, some of the leaders of the Opposition UDF criticised Vijayan for sitting on a steel chair which, according to them, was not an ideal seat for a chief minister of a state.

Similar criticism was raised by some Malayalam-language news portals.

Related: Finally, External Affairs Ministry okays Pinarayi Vijayan’s US visit

Opposition leaders take a swipe

The critics were mostly leaders and supporters of the Congress.

Advocate Veena S Nair, a TV anchor and a Congress leader who contested from the Vattiyurkavu constituency in the last Kerala Assembly elections, took a swipe at Vijayan.

She said saying thousands of dollars had to be shelled out for sitting next to Pinarayi Vijayan in the US. However, Vijayan called the news reports “baseless”.

“Only now do I realise why ₹82 lakh was charged to sit with Comrade Pinarayi. No one who has the desire to live will sit in that chair,” Veena wrote on Facebook.

Also Read: Are foreign trips by Kerala ministers and officials mere junkets?

She also added a picture of a steel chair and stated: “This is trending in America.”

All India Congress Committee (AICC) member and former Kollam District Congress Committee (DCC) president Advocate Bindhu Krishna shared a picture of an old chair with a caption that roughly translates as, “America, they say”, taking a dig at the chief minister’s US visit.

IUML National Council member TNA Kadar also took a swipe at the Kerala chief minister on Facebook.

Twitter handles of even seemingly non-political individuals seemed miffed by the chair.

Also read: Pinarayi Vijayan hits out at media for ‘baseless lies’

From the other side 

Interestingly, numerous netizens came forward to defend the chief minister’s seat.

They posted pictures of former US President Barack Obama and current US President Joe Biden sitting on similar chairs.

Popular Malayalam short story writer NS Madhavan joined the debate to criticise those who posted against Pinarayi Vijayan. He called the US a more democratic and less elitist country.

“What made Mallu media/SM snakes say Pinarayi Vijayan sitting on a steel chair is an insult? Don’t carry your little knowledge to the US, which is a more democratic and less elitist country. On same type of chairs we see OBAMA and BIDEN are enjoying a nice chat #mallukusumbu [sic],” wrote NS Madhavan on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/NSMlive/status/1668704456865611778

Cadres and sympathisers of the Left parties stood up for their leader and criticised the Opposition for lack of logic in their arguments.

CPI(M) supporter Ratheesh Kakkattama was one of those who posted Biden’s photo on a steel chair.

Some Left-leaning profiles even accused the “Kolibi” alliance — the initials of the Congress, the IUML, and the BJP in Malayalam — of creating a controversy during the chief minister’s US visit.

Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan boarded a flight from Thiruvananthapuram for his US visit on 8 June.

According to Chief Minister Office (CMO), the chief minister’s US visit ended on Wednesday, when he departed for Havana, the capital of Cuba, from New York.

When Vijayan and his team reach Cuba, the delegation will be joined by Health Minister Veena George and Health and Family Welfare Department Principal Secretary Tinku Biswal.