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VS gears up for final showdown all alone

VS gears up for final showdown all alone

Author: Shaju Philip
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 31, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/vs-gears-up-for-final-showdown-all-alone/417157/

Introduction: His fight against corruption has put VS Achuthanandan on a battle turf and he has no second-rung leader to stand up for his cause

While the battle in the Kerala CPI(M) has reached a flashpoint, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan finds himself beleaguered instead of his rival Pinarayi Vijayan who is facing corruption charges in the Lavalin scam. Unlike popular perception, the existential crisis is now more severe for Achuthanandan, who is the only living Communist from Kerala who was among those walked out of the national council of the CPI in 1964 to float the CPI(M).

His stand for Communist values and fight against corruption has this time pitch-forked Achuthanandan into a battle quite different from the previous ones fought against Pinarayi. The sentiments of the Communist gallery are with Achuthanandan, but the aged gladiator miserably misses a team to take on his "tainted rival".

The veteran of many a fight has no second rung leaders to stand up for his cause as the entire party leadership has been aligned with Pinarayi. Achuthanandan has only the party mass, local level leaders, and that great history of classical Communism to fall back on at this critical juncture.

This is obviously different from the crisis confronted by Achuthanandan after the party denied him a ticket to contest the Assembly polls in 2006. Then, as the mascot of the Left, Achuthanandan had a battery of senior leaders ready to take any step along with him.

Over the last three years, leaders who stood with him have either been suspended or silenced. Career-oriented confidants jettisoned Achuthanandan as the party has been treading the Pinarayi way. Prominent among them was N N Krishnadas. The economic boom in Kochi had played a key role in the loss of the Ernakulam district committee for Achuthanandan.

While Achuthanandan has been engaged in fighting the real estate mafia, many of his close associates found it lucrative to hobnob with the same forces. Being in power, ministers M Vijayakumar, S Sharma and P K Gurudasan are not keen to take up cudgels for their mentor.

Despite being left high and dry by the party machinery, Achuthanandan is gearing up for a final showdown on two grounds: the swelling constituency of Communist rebels and grassroots-level disenchantment within the party against Right-wing deviations and corruption of the rivals. He has already signalled that he would not mind stepping down if the party refused to remove Pinarayi as state secretary.

In the event of quitting the CM's post in protest against the Politburo favouring Pinarayi, Achuthanandan will find it tough to continue in the party. He, most probably, will have to walk out of the party alone. As the party is in power, leaders are unlikely to risk their jobs.

According to sources, Achuthanandan has been conducting hectic discussions with several leaders, mainly those who have been suspended from the party. The suspended leaders have been goading Achuthanandan to come out of the party.

"The rebel movement has a considerable mass base. But, they have no state-level leader. For them, Achuthanandan looks a better choice to head the movement," said a party central committee member close to Pinarayi.

"Achuthanandan will be able to trigger a strong rebel movement. To what extent he is able to injure the party will depend on the mass that supports him," the sources said.

Hardliners in the Pinarayi group who wants to see the back of Achuthanandan believe that his capacity to harm the party will be limited to the ensuing elections. If the party is ready to accept what may come in the next elections, the leader can be thrown out.

It has to be seen whether the party will go for protecting the organisational machinery led by Pinarayi, risking mass sentiments in favour of Achuthanandan.

Though the party has asked all its local-level units to protest against the CBI decision to implicate Pinarayi in the Lavalin case, the grassroots-level participation in protest meetings is very thin. This is a matter of serious concern for the party. Even in Kannur, the home town of Pinarayi, the mass involvement in agitations is dull.

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