KOCHI ~ With the CPM’s organisational polls being announced, the battle lines have been drawn sharply in the Kerala unit. Comrade VS Achuthanandan, who had single-handedly taken the party to a near victory in the Assembly polls, is now training his guns on his bête-noire Pinarayi Vijayan, the state secretary of the party. Achuthanandan has defied the party stand on two occasions in the last week, first by calling on expelled ideologue ‘Berlin’ Kunjannanthan Nair, and then by publicly denouncing the disciplinary action taken against some party workers who had protested the decision to not give Nair a ticket for the Assembly polls.
The state party secretariat, led by Pinarayi Vijayan, responded by issuing a press release calling his views confusing. The state party unit further suspended 12 more party members in the Kasargode district for the same reason. The state secretariat of the party has also lodged a complaint against Achuthanandan’s alleged high-handedness within the party, to the Central Committee.
VS had started a ‘purification drive’ in the party by getting two heavyweights of the official faction thrown out on charges of ‘serious misconduct’. Vijayan’s close aide P Sasi, the then secretary of the Kannur district committee, was expelled from the party following complaints of misbehaviour towards women comrades. Gopi Kottamurikkal, another Vijayan loyalist, who had switched sides in 2009, has been removed from the post of the secretary of the Ernakulum district committee for his alleged ‘immoral’ relationship with a woman lawyer, who is also a party worker. It was over this issue that the factionalism took its ugliest turn. It is believed that the rival faction got a hidden camera planted in Kottamurikkal’s room in the party office, and recorded him in a compromising position with the lawyer. Besides VV Rameshan, the state treasurer of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), who is a Vijayan loyalist, was also cut to size for securing an MBBS seat for his daughter via an NRI quota in the party run co-operative medical college in Pariyaram, Kannur.
VS is once again on quite a trip, defying the party stand and publicly denouncing party diktats. This seems to be a clear move to gain an upper hand in the upcoming party elections.
This factionalism in the CPM surfaces every 3 years when the schedule for elections within the party is announced. The in-fighting surfaced for the first time in the open in the 1998 state conference, where the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu) faction led by the late E Balanandan was steamrolled by VS, with the help of Vijayan. Leaders such as MM Lawrence, now a staunch Vijayan aide, and KN Raveendranath were voted out from the state committee in the infamous Palakkad conference. Since then, VS has emerged as a leader of a faction fighting within the party rather than as a unanimously supported leader. The VS-Vijayan partnership, too, soon came to an end. By the next party congress, he locked horns with Vijayan who had been promoted to the Politburo, thanks to the then General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet who had some problems with Achuthanandan in the late 90s.
The state conference held in Malappuram in 2005 witnessed blatant factionalism with the VS and Vijayan factions trying anything and everything to wrest power. Vijayan had the last laugh at the time. Since then, VS’s grip over the party apparatus has weakened considerably. Despite being the seniormost leader of the Indian Communist movement, he was removed from the CPM Politburo two years ago for taking anti-party stands on issues that had a direct bearing on the Kerala state unit.
But after the Assembly polls in which VS single-handedly took the party to the verge of an improbable victory, the mood within the party has changed. Some prominent leaders who had been with Vijayan have softened their stand towards VS. He is even getting a certain degree of acceptance in Kannur district, considered the fortress of Vijayan’s ‘official’ faction.
VS seems to be trying to capitalise on this newly-garnered support. His ‘war against corruption and evil practices’ has often been aimed against people within the party, rather than other parties. It is well known that Vijayan, facing a CBI probe in the controversial SNC Lavlin electricity pact, was the main target of his anti-corruption drive. VS has often been criticised by his loyalists for not protecting them enough. Now he is trying to shrug this image off by protesting the disciplinary action against his loyalists.