With the state assembly election just three weeks away, the factionalism in CPI(M)’s Kerala unit seem to have deepened the fault lines, once again. Party strongman and politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan’s unexpected jibe at the veteran leader V S Achutanadan ended several month old truce between the two leaders. When everything was seems to be going well for the party and the Left Democratic Front(LDF), the sudden political storm triggered by Pinarayi’s statement, and VS’s subdued reaction have come as a shocker for the party cadres.
When asked during an interview to the Indian Express VS said more and more people want him to be the chief minister in the event of a LDF win. In a measured and calibrated response, he went on to say that this will be decided by the central leadership of the party.
The state unit and the central leaders were non-committal when they were asked who the chief minister candidate, if the Left Democratic Front (LDF) wins.
93 year old VS was nominated after overriding stiff opposition from the some of the senior Kerala leaders. The central leadership of the CPI(M) did not want to take any chance this time, by not fielding the most popular leader of the party. The state leadership is clear that it does not want to see VS as the chief minister in the event of an LDF victory. This is one reason that they did not oppose his candidature this time. This is also because of the clout Achutanadan has with the central leadership after Sitaram Yechury became the General Secretary.
The semblance of unity that was created made cadres believe that the division that plagued the party in the last decade is resolved and it is better poised to take on the Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF).
But everything seem to have gone for a toss when Pinaryai said the party resolution against VS is still relevant. Though Pinarayi retracted the statement, the opposition seized the opportunity and made VS versus party as the main talking point. Unlike in earlier times nonogenarian leader did not care to react to Pinarayi’s statement this time.
Playing like disciplined party man, he said the defeat of the UDF is the main agenda this time. But through his Facebook posts VS who is known for his political acumen, advised leaders of the LDF to be careful while making statements. This is viewed as veiled criticism against Pinrayi. The UDF which was on the back foot for the various corruption charges levelled against its government got a reprieve when the media centre staged this as the main talking point this weekend.
VS added to this, when he choose to express his discontent about the way the affairs in the Kerala unit of the CPI(M) is managed. In an interview to the Indian Express he said that the selection of candidates was not perfect and it and those who supporting the LDF have also pointed out this.
VS’s claim that the people want to see him as chief minister again might have already sent shivers down the spine of other state leaders. This is because after having presented him as the popular leader, the lone surviving founding member of the communist party, told the newspaper that it will be the central leadership which is going to decide who the chief minister will be in the event of an LDF victory.
There is also a perception that the party is divided on ban on sale of liquor issue. The UDF is riding on the hope that its decision to impose restrictions on liquor sales in small and medium rated bars will fetch them votes. UDF has tried to create an impression that if LDF is voted to power they will reopen the bars and liquor vends shut during their rule. The UDF caught on this after the CPI(M) leaders aired opposing views on the matter.
Yechury had to finally intervene and categorically state that the LDF government will not reopen any bars if they come to power. Even this did not end the ambiguity regarding LDF’s liquor policy. Pinrayi contradicted this by saying that the decision regarding the liquor policy will be taken after government formation. This also annoyed VS, forcing him to say party’s position is expressed by Yechury and that will be binding on every one.
Having made public his stand VS is playing his cards carefully this time. As the man who spearheads the LDF campaign, he even went to Dharmadam, were Pinarayi is contesting. When the UDF ridiculed VS for campaigning for his bête–noire, he retorted saying Pinrayi is senior leader of the party no one should expect him to do anything which will hamper his electoral victory.
Barring an occasional show of solidarity, what has come to the fore now is the fratricidal divisions in the CPI(M) leadership which are more personal than political. How this is going to impact in the most crucial election that CPI(M) is fighting next month remains to be seen.