Vying to rule: VS, Pinarayi and Chandy

Vying to rule: VS, Pinarayi and Chandy
In election season, V S Achuthanandan is at his best, raking up sensitive issues and unleashing scathing attacks on his opponents. He steals the show, becoming the darling of the masses and the envy of his own party leaders.

And when the election is over, he becomes the natural choice to head the government. And in the 2016 polls, too, 93-year-old VS, as he is popularly known, is all set to play all his favourite tricks and games to usurp the chief minister’s post from his bête noire and the most probable chief ministerial candidate of the CPM, Pinarayi Vijayan.

The big question before party workers and the people of Kerala is, will it be VS or Pinarayi if the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) comes to power. Known for his inimitable gestures, razor-sharp words, virulent attacks on opponents and unique style of dialogue delivery, VS, an astute campaigner, is braving the scorching summer to ensure a comfortable win for the fourth consecutive term as MLA, and thereafter for a big fight within the party for the state’s top post if it wins at the hustings.

In the 2006 elections, Achuthanandan had to slug it out within the party to grab a seat and then to bag the chief minister’s post.

In 2011, too, he was denied a ticket to contest the Assembly polls but the Polit Bureau intervened to ensure him a seat. On both occasions, the CPM central leadership had to veto the party state committee’s decision not to give a seat to VS.

But this time, VS faced no hurdles on his way to the Malampuzha constituency because he had established himself as a giant in the party, capable of leading a head-on fight against the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the BJP, along with its new ally the Bharathiya Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS). 

The BDJS was formed recently under the patronage of Vellappally Natesan, general-secretary of the SNDP Yogam, the organisation of the backward Ezhava community.
By training his guns against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Natesan, VS has earned phenomenal public support across the state.

But Chandy, too, is a mass leader, always surrounded by people. Despite several scams, from the Saritha episode to the bar bribery scandals, Chandy has been able to keep his head high. And he took a firm stand against the high command when it came to removing 5 tainted leaders from the candidates’ list. The one week long imbroglio, triggered by KPCC president V M Sudheeran, ended with the high command yielding to Chandy.

  Though the Congress central leadership has given directions that the trio–Chandy, Sudheeran and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala–will lead the front collectively, it is a fact that Chandy will return as chief minister if the UDF comes back to power.

And surprisingly, there is not even a murmur within the party seeking a leadership change. It was the same Chandy who raised the need for a leadership change when the mighty K Karunakaran was the chief minister in the early 1990s. Chandy initiated a relentless attack against Karunakaran which ended up with his resignation on March 16, 1995. A K Antony then became the chief minister, followed by Chandy in 2004. The man who uprooted the all-powerful Karunakaran has no strong adversaries within the party now.

Chandy knows that his dream of a consecutive second term will come true only if the rift between VS and Pinarayi intensifies.

Unlike in the past, Pinarayi and VS are not in a mood to fight. All efforts from Chandy to drive a wedge between VS and Pinarayi went in vain. “Don’t expect me to speak against Pinarayi to defeat him”, VS cautioned Chandy in a campaign meeting for Pinarayi in the CPM bastion of Dharmadam in Kannur district.

A true communist and a man with unparalleled administrative and management skills, Pinarayi is full of chief ministerial stuff, and he has the full support of the party, though he lacks an image among the masses. While VS could deliberately carve out a new image for himself over a period of time, Pinarayi never resorted to such image building exercises, thanks to his rigid nature. But the party cadres look forward to him as the strong leader who will become the chief minister.

And VS looks forward to party general-secretary Sitaram Yechury for support in the post-election scenario. Though he doesn’t have enough support within the party, the fact remains that he has staged a comeback from a major downfall in the CPM annual state conference at Alappuzha in February 2015.

Achuthanandan had walked out of the conference in a huff raising speculation that he was going to part ways, and was at the receiving end of some searing attack from the state leadership for his anti-party stand on several occasions. In a communist party, it is very difficult to re-enter the precincts after staging a walkout, but VS of course has come back, thanks to Yechury. But will Yechury support VS as chief minister of Kerala again at the age of 93? A big question indeed.

(The writer is a political analyst)

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