The Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at Alappuzha in 2015 was marred by divisionism, but the ideological issues raised by party veteran VS Achuthanandan then have returned to haunt the party as it goes into the present conference at Thrissur.
The nonagenarian leader, who was reduced to a non-entity subsequently, has emerged from the sidelines to check the free run of the leadership controlled by the formidable Kannur lobby in the party led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
Achuthanandan has sought to upset their apple cart to expand the Left front by forging alliances with parties with dubious credentials before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by coming out against their move to woo the Kerala Congress (Mani), a regional party with strong roots in the Christian belt, into the coalition.
The senior leader opposed the move in a letter to the party’s central leadership on the eve of the state conference. He has urged the party’s central leadership not to permit any discussion on the issue in the meet as it is against the CPM Politburo’s decision not to admit any corrupt person into the Left front.
The chief minister is not worried by the dissident stand taken by his strong critic as he now has absolute control over the government as well as the party. Moreover, most of the hard-core supporters of Achuthanandan have deserted him after he was relegated to the post of an inconsequential State Administrative Reforms Commission chief.
Vijayan with the help of the party secretary has also seen to it that the dissidents will not raise their heads again by personally supervising the selection of delegates to the state meet at all the 14 district conferences. There was no dissenting voice against the proposed alliance with the KC(M) in any of the district conferences.
On the contrary, Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta district conferences made a strong plea for inviting KC(M) into the LDF camp. Central committee members like EP Jayarajan and A Vijayaraghavan backed it by issuing a public statement praising Mani ahead of the state conference.
Political analyst NM Pearson said that the move may not be digestible to a large section of the party since the leadership had made them believe that Mani was the most corrupt political leader in Kerala.
The CPM had branded him corrupt in the wake of allegations that he had taken a bribe from bar owners for facilitating the reopening of several bars closed by the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government on the eve of the last Lok Sabha election. The party had also accused Mani, who stepped down as the finance minister following the scam, of selling budget to make money.
The CPM stepped up its efforts to woo him into the Left Democratic Front (LDF) camp after the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) gave Mani a clean chit in the case that the party had effectively used in the Assembly election. But many believe that the clean chit was at the instance of the chief minister, who holds both the vigilance and home portfolios, to facilitate the entry of KC(M) into the LDF.
The Communist Party of India (CPI), the second largest constituent of the LDF, has been consistently opposing the move citing not only the corrupt track record of Mani but also the neo-liberal policies followed by his party. Achuthanandan’s stand will strengthen the CPI, which has threatened to quit the LDF if KC(M) is given entry into the LDF.
The CPM is going out of the way to woo Mani to raise its tally in the Lok Sabha during the next election. This, the party leaders feel, will also vindicate their decision to support former party general secretary Prakash Karat’s line against any cooperation with the Congress besides giving the state unit a strong say at the national level.
The CPM had its best performance in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 when it won 18 out of 20 seats. The state unit is trying to expand the alliance with all and sundry hoping for a repeat of 2004. However, Karat himself is doubtful about this. He considered the 2004 performance an exception.
Achuthanandan had supported the alternate line propounded by Sitaram Yechury, the current general secretary of the CPM, as he believed that the communal and fascist threats posed by the BJP were more dangerous to the country than the neo-liberal economic policies of the Congress.
The party will find it difficult to defend its ideological fight against neo-liberalism since the Vijayan government itself has been following many of these policies in the state. The chief minister has been going by the advice given by Githa Gopinath, who is a strong advocate of neo-liberalism. He had appointed Gopinath as his economic advisor despite strong opposition from within the party.
Moreover, many leaders and their kin have been reaping the benefits of this policy. The party secretary himself may find it an embarrassing situation if the delegates raise the shady deals of his sons at the conference. The leadership may not be able to avoid it since the West Bengal unit of the party is expected to raise it at the 22nd CPM congress at Hyderabad.
Though Benoy Vinodini Balakrishnan and Bineesh Kodiyeri have managed to settle the cheating cases filed against them in UAE before the state meet, questions about their nature of business and source of funds for launching the business and then settling the cases can come up at the state meet.
The incident has led to strong resentment among the party cadres across the state. They view the unending series of political murders in Kannur as a result of the failure of the party to counter its opponents ideologically.
A senior party member at Kochi said that delegates from southern districts were totally unhappy with the style of functioning of the party’s Kannur lobby.
“The leaders in Kannur are under the wrong notion that they can strengthen the party by annihilating its opponents physically. This is foolishness and it will sound the death knell of the party,” said the member, who did not want to be identified.
He said that the move for alliances with parties with a dubious credential is also the result of ideological bankruptcy felt by the party now and hoped that the state meet will take steps to build the party on its ideological foundation.>