Monday, January 28, 2008

Comrade VS Goes Down; But Will it Bring an End to Factional War?

SO, WHO has been successful in this ding-dong battle?

Those who have watched the ongoing local, area and district level conferences of the CPM in Kerala, say in unison that Comrade Pinarayi Vijayan has been winning hands down. Good old comrade Achumman, or the venerable leader V S Achuthanandan who had proved the dark horse in so many battles in the past, is now a washout. His days are over. So, Long Live Comrade Achumman, and move forward comrades…Let us unite under the new leadership.

But the skeptics remain skeptics. Is the battle in Kerala’s CPM over the control of the party is finally and truly over? Is the party, as Pinarayi Vijayan claims repeatedly these days, going to be once again united after the Kottayam state conference next month, removing the final vestiges of factionalism that haunted it for over one and a half decades?

Like the repeated signs of bad omen that disturbed the sleep of Julius Caesar on the day of his death at the Roman Senate, even in this silver skyline dark clouds appear giving anxious nights to those who say the party has finally emerged from the cloudy days of factionalism. The CPM state secretary’s solution to the party’s woes of factionalism is simple: Remove the bad egg, purge the dissidents and everything will be fine. As soon as he was re-elected secretary at the Malappuram state conference three years ago he had launched this cleansing mission, throwing out many from the party.

However, he found that the party central leadership was not playing ball. Every time he made a decisive move, there was an equal and firm rebuff from the centre: Many of those who were removed from the party rolls unilaterally were taken back; clear guidelines were issued from central committee as to how to conduct Kerala’s party conferences, and now the Pinarayi group’s coup de etat at Thiruvananthapuram, where they had edged out 11 VS supporters from the official list in a last-minute operation, had been declared null and void by the politburo headed by Prakash Karat.

That raises the question: Who actually runs the Kerala CPM today, Pinarayi Vijayan, the state secretary, or Prakash Karat, the general secretary?

It would appear the CPM central leadership has little faith in its state leadership as repeatedly they had stepped in to keep the state unit under a tight leash, guide it in the proper way and to force its hands to build unity and consensus in the party. And the mistakes committed by the state party leadership were not confined to organization, they were equally culpable of political deviation and opportunism.

The biggest declaration of the state party leaders’ alienation from its national thinking became evident when they made a not-so-secret effort to water down the quarter-century old Left Democratic Front that consisted of CPM, CPI, RSP and other left and democratic parties ostensibly to expand the electoral base in alliance with the Democratic Congress led by Karunakaran and his son. But this line was firmly rebuffed by the party national leadership.

Now the state conference is just a few weeks away and the state leadership is, for all outward appearances, firmly entrenched. They have a majority of district units under their control and almost three-fourths of the elected state conference delegates are on their side. That, they reason, would ensure V S Achuthanandan would have no chance to make a comeback in this state conference.

They may be right; possibly Achuthanandan may cease to be a force to reckon with in the party from now on.

But will it finally put an end to the dissidence and factionalism in Kerala CPM? I doubt it, because Pinarayi Vijayan has emerged as the most divisive among the leaders of the party in its entire history. So now we may be entering a new stage in the internal battles in the party. Perhaps, the post-Kottayam inner party struggles may decide the future as the fight will be on two broad agendas: To make the party more democratic and genuinely people-centered on the one side and more undemocratic and more bureaucratic on the other.

Let’s watch and wait…

(Devil's Sermon is a weekly political commentary.)

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