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CPI-M leadership cracks whip on Kerala CM, Vijayan
N Muraleedharan in Thiruvananthapuram | August 17, 2007 13:36 IST
As factionalism in Kerala [Images] Communiust Party of India-Marxist involving Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and state unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan continues, the Central leadership has once again cracked its whip by issuing a set of special guidelines to be followed in the triennial multi-level party meetings beginning next month.
Admitting that faction war in organisational meetings and elections from branch level had been a reality in recent times, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat last week made it clear that the politburo would intervene at any level if the state unit failed to implement the norms mandated on it.
Karat, who attended a lengthy four-day state secretariat and state committee meetings, said that any violation of the party Constitution and rules in the conduct of meetings, from 26,000 branch units to the state level, would incur strict disciplinary action.
It was when the personality clash in the party took an ugly turn a few months back the central leadership suspended Achuthanandan and Vijayan from the politburo. But even this severe punishment handed down to these senior leaders had failed to improve things.
Earlier this month, a fresh round of fratricidal firings started after an interview was carried by the party-controlled TV channel 'Kairali' with a businessman, said to be close to Vijayan, who Achuthanandan had called "a hated person."
Known for his vitriolic style when taking on rivals, Achuthanandan first used the term "hated person" to describe businessman M A Pharis at a press meet when asked about a huge sum donated by him for a football tourney organised at the initiative of the CPI-M in Kannur in memory of former chief minister E K Nayanar.
In the subsequent days, Achuthanandan went on reiterating what he had said about Pharis, who has been in the news for quite some time, after becoming the chairman of a century-old newspaper once fully owned by the Catholic church.
A shrewed politician, Vijayan chose to retaliate by throwing open the Kairali channel for Pharis to vent his ire through a lengthy two-part interview.
Besides disputing the charge that he had been meddling in the affairs of the CPI-M state unit and had been close to Vijayan, Pharis dropped a bombshell stating that Achuthanandan had once contacted him, but declined to reveal
With the interview putting him in the shadow of suspicion, Achuthanandan reacted sharply the next day stating it was part of a "conspiracy" to malaign him and his government that had launched a merciless crusade against real estate mafia and sex rackets.
Countering Achuthanandan's confrontationist posturing, the state party secretariat, packed with Vijayan and supporters, came out with a counter-statement strongly defending the channel claiming that allowing different views to prevail showed the strength of the medium.
The spat between the two leaders hit headlines at a time when the party was already facing an image-crisis for receiving funds from a lottery operator as development fund for its daily Deshabhimani.
The Achuthanandan camp had seized on this as a lethal weapon to beat rivals demanding removal of Vijayan loyalist E P Jayarajan as general manager of the daily.
It was in this backdrop that the state committee met where the Central leaders present made the state unit to take strong steps like removal of Jayarajan from the top-slot in the daily.
Suspension of Achuthanandan and Vijayan from politburo was meant as a strong signal that the Central leadership would no longer tolerate the factionalism that had begun to shake the party in the state.
In normal circumstances, the action would have been revoked after a brief probationary period. But in the present case, there has, so far, been no indication of the two leaders being taken back to the politburo.
Though the party centre had been even-handed in dealing out the punishment to the two leaders, Achuthanandan had been given benefit of doubt for his well-acclaimed steps like drive against land-encroachers.
Vijayan, on the other hand, did not get any such consolation for his stewardship of the party set-up in the state in the last few years.
Had this sort of grim inner-commotion happened in some other party, the Central leadership could have saved the day through a shake-up from above. But for a party functioning on the principle of "democratic centralism" super-imposition of leadership on a state unit is a remote possibility.
Often in the past, the power tussles in the party tended to gain momentum during the party elections, held in every three year from branch committee to state committee ahead of the national party Congress. What is being eagerly watched is far the norms enforced from above are going to be effective this time.