Muddled action

Muddled action

The disciplinary action taken by the CPM central committee against Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan is unlikely to bridge the factional divide within the state unit of the party. The ouster of the state’s seniormost leader from the politburo will be considered a biased decision when the leader of the rival group within the party, state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, has been let off without even an admonishment.  Achuthanandan will continue as chief minister but it is doubtful if he will be able to exercise the same authority over the government as earlier, as the ministry is packed with Vijayan’s supporters. In the CPM, power and authority derive from the position in the party and the support of the party machinery. With the denting of his political standing within the party, Achuthanandan will feel bound and constrained.

The party would have gained if the central leadership was evenhanded in its treatment of both leaders. It had two years ago suspended both from the poliburo but it hardly had an impact and the rift between the two groups only widened. It can only get worse now with Vijayan being seen as having won the battle and Achuthanandan having lost. 

The chief minister may have overstepped the limits of indiscipline in a party in which discipline is more important than anything else. But the prosecution of Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case weakened him too. It is not for the party to declare Vijayan innocent. It should have kept him away from responsible positions in the party and allowed him to clear his name in the court. The party would have gained politically and morally if the leaders of both factions were made to pay for their factional activities.

The crisis over the SNC Lavalin case is only the latest expression of groupism within the Kerala CPM. The rift is older than the corruption case and is rooted in personality clashes and differences in attitudes and policies. It is difficult to call it ideological but it has much to do with a clash of ideas and divergent ways of practising politics. The action against Achuthanandan does not resolve this basic problem within the party. Even after he was punished by the party, the chief minister said his position on the Lavalin case is correct. Then what good did the action do?

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