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Disciplining the faction leaders

Monday 28 May 2007

Factionalism has been a major problem, over the past two decades, in the large Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and it is well known that the disunity starts at the top. The 18th Congress of the party held in Delhi in April 2005 came to grips with the seriousness of the problem, especially considering what happened at the February 2005 State conference at Malappuram. It issued a directive to the party’s central leadership to end the factionalism and resolve the outstanding issues in Kerala. From time to time since then, there have been interventions by the CPI(M)’s central leadership and general secretary Prakash Karat. Interestingly, the factionalism did not come in the way of the CPI(M) and the Left Democratic Front winning an unprecedented number of seats in the May 2006 Assembly elections, following the near-complete sweep of Lok Sabha seats from Kerala in May 2004. Recently, in anticipation of the party conferences that will be held at various levels ahead of the 19th party Congress in the first half of 2008, there have been signs of factionalism intensifying in the Kerala party. The public exchange of criticisms by the two top faction leaders, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and State party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, makes no sense unless it is located in this political and organisational context.

By suspending both from the Polit Bureau — the first case of such action in the history of the CPI(M) — the party’s highest executive body, which is accountable to the Central Committee, has decided that enough is enough. It has sent a clear message down the line after concluding that by making remarks against each other to the media and by airing their differences publicly, the two leading lights of the Kerala party "violated the norms of the party and the clear directive of the Polit Bureau and the Central Committee" and that "such behaviour [was] unacceptable." While the two leaders would "continue to discharge all their other party responsibilities," including crucially the chief ministership by Mr. Achuthanandan, their cases would be placed before the Central Committee for its consideration. The Polit Bureau struck a balance by appreciating the performance of the Achuthanandan government. It commended, in particular, "the revival of public sector units, the measures to tackle the price rise, the agreement on the Smart City project, and the firm action by the government against encroachment in Munnar recently," which had "won popular approval and enhanced the image of the government." Kerala’s Chief Minister — who galvanised the LDF’s 2004 and 2006 election campaigns and has a clean, austere, and close-to-the-people image — has responded sportingly to the party’s decision, comparing it with a parent or teacher "punish[ing] children when they make mistakes," and supporting the Polit Bureau’s action. With a great deal at stake, the CPI(M) and its supporters will be hoping that this octogenarian child as well as his younger, sexagenarian sibling rival will learn from their repeated mistakes.

See online : The Hindu

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