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War in Kerala CPM: state unit says CM should step down

War in Kerala CPM: state unit says CM should step down

Author: Shaju Philip
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 9, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/on-verdict-eve-war-in-kerala-cpm-state-unit-says-cm-should-step-down/456620/0

The Kerala CPM has asked Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan to quit for his "anti-party" stand on the SNC Lavalin case. The state secretariat of the party which met on Friday demanded his resignation for refusing to tread the party line that the case against state party chief Pinarayi Vijayan was politically motivated.

Achuthanandan was the sole dissenter in the cabinet meeting on Wednesday to decide on the Advocate General's opinion that the government should not grant sanction to prosecute Vijayan.

Though the secretariat denied that it sought the Chief Minister's resignation and said such reports were fabricated, sources said the decision would be conveyed to the politburo.

The politburo will take a final decision on the issue.

When the discussions in the secretariat leaked out, putting the party in an embarrassing situation in the middle of elections, the central leadership promptly directed the state unit to issue a denial and chose to describe the developments as media creation. Sources in the Politburo said although they had expected the VS-Pinarayi tussle to flare up again they did not foresee it coming before May 16. Although party leaders here said the issue was serious, they viewed Friday's developments as pressure tactics by the Pinarayi-led faction to push VS to the backfoot.

It is not the first time that the Vijayan-controlled secretariat has spoken out against Achuthanandan but at Friday's meeting no one stood up to defend the Chief Minister. His belligerence in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday embarrassed the party which had earlier taken a decision to accept the Advocate General's opinion.

The AG was asked to advice the Cabinet after the Governor sought its opinion on the CBI request to sanction Vijayan's prosecution.

Upholding his image as a crusader against corruption, Achuthanandan sought to reject the AG's advice. He argued that the AG should be told to file a fresh report as he had summarily rejected the CBI charges against Vijayan. He even threatened to register his dissenting note, which would have landed the Cabinet in a crisis.

Disregarding the objections from his cabinet colleagues-from his own party and other Left parties-Achuthanandan even threatened to directly recommend Vijayan's prosecution to the Governor. However, he finally succumbed to the collective decision of the Cabinet to accept the AG's report.

What had left the party red-faced was that the secretariat on Saturday had unanimously accepted the AG's report in a meeting attended by General Secretary Prakash Karat and politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai.

Party sources said Achuthanandan told the secretariat on Friday that he was discharging his constitutional obligations. But the hardliners in the secretariat stuck to their demand that the dissenting CM should be told to go.

A day after the CBI, which named Vijayan as an accused, submitted its report in the court, Achuthanandan had rushed to New Delhi to seek his removal as party secretary. While the Central leadership considered the case as a politically-motivated one, Achuthanadan did not subscribe to that view. Achuthanandan claimed his constitutional obligations included initiating the process of prosecuting Vijayan.

He had also kept away from Vijayan's Nava Kerala yatra but reluctantly showed up on its last day_which saw the two exchange barbs in speeches packed with insinuations.

The central leadership had then given an assurance to the state unit that its complaints against Achuthanadan would be relooked after the elections. But the crisis boiled over before the results with his latest act of defiance. The official faction sees this as the best opportunity to crack the whip on the Chief Minister. With the Assembly elections two years away, the state unit thinks it has enough time to recover from the impact the removal of the veteran may have on the party.

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