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CPM suffocated me: Viswanatha Menon
George Iype in Kochi | September 05, 2003 08:41 IST
Veteran leader V Viswanatha Menon, who has decided to fight the Lok Sabha by-election from Ernakulam constituency, Kerala, as an independent with support from the Bharatiya Janata Party, says he left the Communist Party of India-Marxist because he felt "suffocated and disgusted" in it.
"I have been getting ill-treated by the Marxist party for some years now. But that is not the reason I am contesting as an independent candidate. I felt suffocated in the party because it has lost touch with the people," Menon, who was the finance minister in the CPI-M-led E K Nayanar government between 1987-91, told rediff.com
Menon's decision to contest the by-election, scheduled for September 23, has come as a rude shock to the CPI-M leadership, which has been, for some time, struggling to cope with rebellion in the party.
Menon said many of his friends compelled him to contest as an independent. "Moreover, Ernakulam is a familiar political ground for me. I am sure I will win," he said.
Menon had won the Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat in the 1967 election. Later, he got elected to the Rajya Sabha for two terms. In the 1991 Lok Sabha election, though the Left Democratic Front fielded him, he lost to current Tourism Minister K V Thomas. The Ernakulam constituency fell vacant following the death of Congress MP George Eden in July.
The CPI-M has already nominated Sebastian Paul, a former MP, to contest the poll. Paul, who hails from Ernakulam, is the associate editor of the Marxists-run daily Desabhimani.
Some CPI-M leaders feel Menon's decision will not hurt the party.
"In fact, for many years now Menon has not been active in the party. But it is political opportunism that has suddenly forced him to contest the election against the party's official candidate," CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan told rediff.com
Vijayan said Menon's allegations are "baseless and cheap". "It shows Menon was never a committed and sincere party worker. His intention now is only to leave the party and damage our image. But sadly he is on the wrong track and in the bad company of the BJP," Vijayan added.
It is for the first time in Kerala's political history that a Marxist leader of Menon's stature is leaving the party to fight an election with the help of the BJP.
Other than the BJP, the Indian Federal Democratic Party, led by central Minister of State for Law P C Thomas and a clutch of disgruntled former CPI-M trade union leaders like V B Cherian are helping Menon.
"Menon is one of the finest trade union leaders that Kerala has seen. The fact that even he has left the party in disgust shows the levels of decay the Marxist party has fallen to," Cherian told rediff.com
It is not only the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front that finds itself in dire straits in the election. The Congress also remains a divided house after the party high command refused to heed to former chief minister K Karunakaran's demand to nominate one of his close aides.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi rejected Karunakaran's claim and instead nominated M O John, a close friend of Chief Minister A K Antony. A hurt Karunakaran is yet to announce his plans, but party observers feel he will put up a rebel candidate.
The Congress also suffered a blow when former Union minister K Krishnakumar resigned from the part early this week and decided to contest as an independent. "I have been a loyal leader of the party for all these years. But I have been sidelined in the party for long for no reason. Since I have no work in the Congress, I am leaving the party," Krishnakumar told reporters.
More reports from Kerala