Velikkakth Sankaran Achuthanandan, or VS Achuthanandan as he is popularly known, is a fighter to the core. However, the nonagenarian communist leader, who has been putting up a spirited fight against the present leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) in Kerala, seems to have resigned to the fate that has befallen him.
He has been shown the door from the State Committee, effectively clipping his wings in his battle against the official faction, in the recently-concluded state conference of the party.
Achuthanandan, who was instrumental in getting rid of maverick leaders of the CPM, like MV Raghavan and KR Gowri, is now facing the same situation in his political career from Pinarayi Vijayan, who had stood with him in thick and thin to oust leaders like E Balananadan and KN Raveendranath.
In many ways, the CPM of Kerala is at a crossroads with the party facing the challenges of both fighting the alleged corruption in the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) government and of redesigning the party to fit into a new political framework.
However, Achuthanandan, who was fighting a bitter battle to take hold of the party apparatus against Vijayan, who has just stepped down as the party’s State Secretary after 16 years, could not have a firm grip on running the party. But, he has always been in the limelight for he knows how to project himself before media and how to give a spin to issues concerning the common man. Somehow, Achuthanandan has made people believe that he was a paragon of virtue in the party and that only he could take the party to the common man.
A party which is facing the biggest threat of its survival given the ascendancy of BJP in national politics and with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, CPM will be the major loser if it fails to understand the Malayali psyche, and the party leadership under Vijayan has decided that enough is enough with Achuthanandan. The party has to be a monolithic unit if it has to fight ideology and the dissidence within the party. For that Achuthanandan has to be kept honest. However, so far Achuthanandan could not be brushed aside for the sheer weight of his political background and popularity. He has carefully created a public image that at present the party is not run or led as “a party of the people and for the people”, and that if he were at the helm things would have been different.
The leader of the Opposition, who used to be the biggest crowd puller for the CPM, he had two options—either come out of the party as a “victim” and put up a stiff challenge to the CPM in the electoral turf or simply accept defeat and keep quiet.
Any political commentator who has been following Left politics, specifically Achuthanandan, does not need a sixth sense to gauge which direction the wind is blowing: Achuthanandan has always been a prisoner of position and will not take any extreme steps or will never has the guts of Raghavan or KR Gowri Amma, who had taken the CPM leadership headlong, faced eviction and had emerged victorious.
All through his political career Achuthanandan has never taken any such risks and has always ridden on the bogey of his “sacrifices” and “fights” for the rights of the poor and marginalised, and he can never come out of the party’s comfort zone.
The politics of Achuthanandan has become hollow and the party cadres and sympathisers have found out clearly that his political positioning has no specific agenda and he would even compromise on certain issues which were believed to be close to his heart. This has disillusioned Achuthanandan’s supporters.So much so that when the leader reached Cantonment House, the official residence of the leader of the Opposition, on Sunday morning, after boycotting the party’s state conference in Alappuzha, there were no supporters or sympathisers. It may be recalled that when Achuthanandan was denied a ticket in Assembly Elections in 2006 and 2011 the scenario in Thiruvananthapuram was entirely different with spontaneous slogan-shouting erupting in the city with the party cadres and sympathisers coming out against the party leadership. Similar scenes were seen throughout the state with people coming out in large numbers against the party leadership and in support of Achuthanandan. He had then developed a martyr’s image.
Kodiyeri takes charge
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, deputy leader of Opposition and Politburo member, is the new state secretary of CPM in Kerala after Pinarayi Vijayan stepped down after 16 years in the post. Kodiyeri is the eight secretary of the CPM. Balakrishnan’s style of functioning is opposite to Vijayan’s even though both hail from Thalassery, the CPM bastion in Kannur district. Kodiyeri is seen as the moderate face of the CPM and has never lost his cool in tight situations while Pinarayi was a hardliner and a taskmaster. Balakrishnan has said clearly that his priority will be to develop the Left coalition and that the issues raised by VS Achuthanandan will be dealt with. A public leader and orator, Balakrishnan started his political career as a Students’ Federation of India leader and was jailed during Emergency. He was the home and tourism minister in the LDF government in 2006 led by Achuthanandan.
However, the scene has changed drastically and it seems that the sympathisers and cadres have realised that Achuthanandan has always been taking or raking up issues just for his own benefit and that in the end the party was at the receiving end. This message was clearly delivered to the party cadres by the leadership or rather the cadres and sympathisers have found out that the stand taken by the veteran comrade was not relating to the major public issues or rather he was compromising on these issues with the single point of his benefit.
It may also be noted that when Achuthanandan started his fight against the official leadership of the party, there was support for him all through the state with around eight District Committees throwing their weight behind him. There were several supporters for him in the party’s State Committee and even in the top decision-making body of the state CPM, the Secretariat. All these support has waned now.
A student leader had reportedly spoken in the state committee that yesteryears’ sacrifice cannot be counted to forgive today’s mischief and that it should be contained if the party was at the receiving end. A Democratic Youth Federation of India leader has said that Achuthanandan, who is the only CPM-founding member alive, should be shown the door for his anti-party activities.
Achuthanandan seems to have resigned to his fate as the new party secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, has said that he has to toe the party line. While the senior comrade has been removed from the state committee, the party leadership has kept a window open that if he reforms himself, he would be inducted back as one seat has been kept vacant.