Turf war all over in Kerala politics

Kerala politics
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Kerala politics

Highlights

Communism in Kerala, it is said, is going to the dogs, in ideological terms, despite their success in the last assembly polls.

Communism in Kerala, it is said, is going to the dogs, in ideological terms, despite their success in the last assembly polls. The CPI(M), which heads the LDF government in the state, is drawing all and sundry into the party in a reckless manner, signifying a further degeneration of what was once a party led by a principled politician and theoretician like EMS Namboodiripad. And so is the poorly populated CPI, the smaller partner in the ruling alliance.

KPCC general secretary K P Anilkumar, who had been suspended by the Congress recently over his utterances against the state leadership, was the latest to find sanctuary in the CPI(M) in a jiffy. He announced his resignation from the tricolour party on Tuesday and drove straight to the Marxist state headquarters to join the red party. He was received with open arms by Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and other state leaders.

Kozhikode-based Anilkumar was suspended from the Congress party in August after he bad-mouthed the state party leadership and Congress general secretary KC Venugopal over the way the new district party president posts were finalised in Delhi. Notably, another Congress leader in TVM, PS Prasanth, who had also been suspended for the same reason, was welcomed into the CPI(M) within days of his suspension, last month. Anil Kumar had not been given the Congress ticket to contest the polls in the assembly polls earlier this year as also in the previous polls in 2016. Prasanth as Congress nominee had been defeated in the last assembly polls from a constituency in the capital by the CPI(M)-LDF nominee.

Both the CPI(M) and CPI are spreading their nets far and wide to draw in anyone from any other party willing to join them. While the CPI(M) has a strong cadre and network in the state, the attempt is to "finish off" the opposition, a la Bengal during the Jyoti Basu term, to remain in power in the state for more years – a strategy that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too has adopted after the LDF win for the second consecutive term in this year's assembly polls. The character of the party under the long years of his leadership, by virtue of him being the state party secretary from the mid-1990s and as CM for the last over five years, has changed for the worse.

Getting a membership in the CPI(M) was not easy in the past, as this involved a gestation period lasting a few years. The performance of an individual seeking membership was closely watched in the interim before a final nod was given. Not anymore.

The steady degeneration of Communism, vis-a-vis ideology, is a curious sight in Kerala. Large numbers of the party activists in both the CPI(M) and CPI are corrupt and are more into money-making rackets alongside holding party and other positions. Its echo is increasingly heard in the cooperative banking movement, which is mostly controlled by CPI(M) functionaries at both lower and higher levels.

The CPI has less of a following but manages four ministries in successive LDF governments, giving its party men high scope for frequent fund collections and money making by foul means. The forest loot, believed to be of the order over Rs 2000 crore in the guise of a suspiciously motivated government order to "help" farmers, saw large-scale cutting of valued Veetti and Teak trees from forests and poramboke lands across districts, during the fag end of the last LDF governent. The CPI held both the Revenue and Forest portfolios in the government then. At the state council meeting of the party, State Secretary Kanam Rajendran dismissed the issue by stressing that the "idea of issuing the GOs was only to help farmers."

Small segments of leaders in both the parties, who still maintain a clean and unassailable image, are feeling suffocated and deeply concerned over the way things are shaping up in these two parties. Some CPI(M) leaders who have a clean image are in close touch among themselves, quietly deliberating over the adverse image make-over the party is made to suffer in recent years. There is no open dissent yet in both the parties, as the leaders are mostly enjoying the fruits of power, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has absolute control over the party affairs.

The old fight against Pinarayi Vijayan and his dominant Kannur group in the party by those like former chief minister VS Achuthanandan, a former politburo member, was majorly against such shameful deviations in the party. It, though, got mixed with an ego-clash between VS and Pinarayi, in which the latter managed to gain the upper hand.

VS, now in his 90s, is in poor health and confined to his home. VS held a reputation of being clean and one who stood by the causes of the common man -- set against the "capitalist" and elitist styles of his bete noire, the present CM. This, however, helped VS maintain a huge fan-following, cutting across political spectrum over the past two decades.

The Congress party, after being in a state of stupor for some years, is in a revival mode in the state, with an effective new leadership drawing praise from the rank and file.

The team of K Sudhakaran as state party chief and VD Satheesan as Opposition Leader in the assembly has boosted the morale of the partymen in the state in the past three months after the assembly polls. On the other hand, the LDF is finding itself on the defensive, of late.

The second term of the Pinarayi Vijayan government began on a wrong note by the middle of this year, with the forest loot scandal of the previous term erupting -- and the chief minister is remaining in silent mode as is his wont in such situations; unable to answer many questions relating to the reckless loot. The case is before the high court now.

The CPI leadership is seen being hand-in-glove with the CPI(M) in such situations. A leadership change at state level is inevitable in the state CPI because of the weak health of its secretary Kanam Rajendran. The CPI(M) too has a similar problem, with State Secretary and Kannur's own Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on "leave" on health grounds, and the day-to-day affairs being managed by acting secretary, A Vijayaraghavan.

The state party convention in Kochi in February might see the return of Kodiyeri to the state secretary post, as per speculations among those close to the state leadership. The Kannur lobby is keen on retaining both the CM and Secretary posts, while the rest of the leaders in the party hold less clout.

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