No end to the red bickering in Kerala

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Will the CPM be able to tame the unending factional feud as it censures VS yet again, asks Jeemon Jacob

Photo: SK Mohan

OPPOSITION LEADER VS Achuthanandan’s supporters regard him as a great fighter and his baiters see him as a raging bull. But 88-year-old Achuthanandan is least bothered with such tags.

After a two-day meeting in New Delhi, Achuthanandan was publicly censured by the CPM central committee on charges of providing opponents an opportunity to attack it. However, a mild censure by the central committee did not dampen his spirits, as, in his seven-decade-long political career, he has been in the party’s firing line for six times. But each time, he managed to bounce back.

Party leaders, including general secretary Prakash Karat, were relieved when Achuthanandan agreed to attend the concluding session of the central committee that censured him for violating party discipline. The party central committee also directed the politburo to probe into the functioning of the state leadership.

Achuthanandan, a member of the central committee, has been at loggerheads with the state party leadership on several issues, including the recent killing of a CPM rebel TP Chandrasekharan.

The party has also sent a strong message to Achuthanandan and his bete noire and Kerala CPM secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, whose faction had insisted in the central committee, that strict action should be taken against Achuthanandan, to fall in line. “It was an explosive situation. But we were able to tackle it in an amicable manner for the time being,” said a central committee member, who doesn’t want to be named. He also feels that such decisions of the central committee will not broker peace in the Kerala CPM. “The politically shrewd leader won’t sit idle for long. He will strike back and he has the capability to do that,” said the CPM leader.

After the meeting, Achuthanandan returned to Kerala House in New Delhi and did not comment on the central committee’s decision. Before leaving Delhi, he had a closed-door meeting with Sitaram Yechury, who has always been cordial with the octogenarian. Achuthanandan took a noon flight to Thiruvananthapuram, while Pinarayi, S Ramachandran Pillai, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Thomas Isaac returned by a morning flight with Karat.

Achuthanandan has realised that the CPM is not in a position to take action against him

“It’s a clear signal for his loyalists. He is not ready for a patch-up or yield to the whims and fancies of the state leadership. He will continue his war against his detractors. So the party in Kerala will continue to move in a different direction,” says A Jayashanker, a political analyst based in Kochi.

Achuthanandan has realised that the CPM is not in a position to take action against him, and he has more credibility than any other leader in the party.

“Politically, VS (as he is popularly known) has won the battle. Now the unit is under the radar of the politburo. It shows that the central leadership will listen to VS more than Pinarayi Vijayan. So such a situation will bring a new kind of polarisation to the unit,” said Jayashanker.

Daggers drawn Kerala CPM secretary Pinarayi Vijayan with EP Jayarajan in New Delhi
Daggers drawn Kerala CPM secretary Pinarayi Vijayan with EP Jayarajan in New Delhi
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

SO FAR, the state CPM witnessed Pinarayi emerging as the only power centre of the party in Kerala and VS on the sidelines. But after MA Baby was elevated to the politburo at the party Congress held at Kozhikode last April, the power equations have changed. “VS is certainly going to exploit this situation. He is fully aware that he is getting old. But he wanted someone to continue his fight and ensure the end of his detractors. He has successfully damaged his political opponents both inside and outside the party,” observed a loyalist.

According to another party insider, Achuthanandan is preparing grounds to create another division within the official faction. So far, he has not been successful as he could not poach many from the Pinarayi camp.

“If Pinarayi loses his clout with the central leadership, VS will certainly take advantage of the situation. The central committee meeting has given him an edge over Pinarayi,” said the insider.

Thomas Isaac, former finance minister, has already distanced himself from the Pinarayi camp and is taking an independent stand. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, politburo member and second senior most leader in the party, is trying to opt for a middle path.

“So the infighting in Kerala CPM is going to continue forever. Only the players change. The power has corrupted the cadres and leaders. Achuthanandan is right in his observation. Rightist tendencies have crept in deep within the party. Many cadres are disappointed with the present leadership, who fail to understand the pulse of the people,” lamented CP John, former national president of the Students Federation of India, who was expelled from the party for joining hands with MV Raghavan, former CPM leader.

John believes that the Kerala affairs of the CPM will hit headlines and give headaches to the central leadership. It’s the deviations of the current leadership from the Communist ideology that is giving Achuthanandan the political space to act.

“I’m not a Communist but a VS fan. I respect people who fight for a cause. Today we need people like him to fight endemic corruption in the government. I want him as the Chief Minister again,” said Reshma Mathew, who is a software professional in Thiruvananthapuram. 24- year-old Reshma believes that Achuthanandan will continue his relentless struggle against the corrupt. Thousands of other educated youth too pin their hopes on him. They prefer him to younger leaders. His fans are helping him fight his detractors. He has a votebank, which nobody can claim.

Jeemon Jacob is Bureau Chief, South with Tehelka.
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