ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kerala: Disciplining the Political

The recent disciplinary action initiated against two senior state leaders by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s politburo does little to treat the underlying malaise. While symptoms have been tackled, issues of larger concern and vital for Kerala's future continue to be ignored.


Disciplining the Political

The recent disciplinary action initiated against two senior state leaders by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s politburo does little to treat the underlying malaise. While symptoms have been tackled, issues of larger concern and vital for Kerala’s

future continue to be ignored.


he politburo of the CPI(M) has finally taken disciplinary action against the two leaders of the warring factions in the party’s Kerala unit. What has provoked the politburo to act now has been described as a public airing of differences in flagrant violation of directives issued by it and the central committee. While the politburo’s action may appear as a necessary disciplinary measure, the fact remains that the treatment meted out is for the symptoms and not the disease itself. What is at stake apparently is the politburo’s ability to sort out the issue in the larger interests of the people of Kerala, obsessed as it is with the idea of setting everything right in organisational terms with little heed to underlying political and ideological issues.

The state conference of the party held at Malappuram in 2005 had witnessed a climax of sorts when differences in the party state unit came to the fore. The differences centred around the issue of the theory of the “fourth world”, the approach towards foreign aid and neoliberal policies in general. Instead of developing a healthy discussion on these issues and electing a state committee that would uphold the correct political line vis-à-vis these issues, what the conference attempted was a desperate move to erase differences artificially and to project a united face for the party. As a result, the situation only worsened. Neither could the elections for the state committee be avoided nor could unity be maintained after the conference. The present disciplinary action by the politburo thus is only a continuation of the approach followed at the state conference and does not augur well for the future of a genuine people’s movement in Kerala.

The state committee elected after the Malappuram conference with the full support of the central committee and the politburo initiated disciplinary action against the supporters of V S Achutanandan. VS himself was unceremoniously removed from the position of chief editor of the party paper, Deshabhimani. When it came to the distribution of tickets, it required open demonstrations by supporters of VS to get the go ahead from the politburo for the latter to contest. When the Left Democratic Front led by the CPI(M) registered a massive victory riding mainly on the popularity of VS, thanks to his relentless struggle for people’s issues, more often than not without any backing from the party’s official leadership, attempts were instead concentrated on reining in the chief minister. Denying the home ministry to him is a case in point. When the LDF government embarked on an anti-piracy drive, it was only the chief minister’s tough posture that could make the inspector general of police, a favourite of the official group, heed his orders regarding posting certain officials to look into the concerned enquiry. Even as Pinarai Vijayan was eloquent about the “media syndicate” conspiring to subvert the party, a daily from Kottayam reportedly close to the official group of the CPI(M) was replete withstories of an inefficient chief minister. What is more, the stepmotherly treatment meted out to the CM by the party’s official media including its TV channel is there for every one to watch.

Political Flashpoint

What has brought the ongoing tussle to the present flashpoint is the government’s drive against land encroachers in Munnar, a haven for tourists. Hundreds of acres of government land acquired illegally by the nouveau riche in connivance with government officials as well as politicians across party lines were utilised for making ornately constructed resorts. The crackdown on this land mafia is unprecedented in the history of Kerala. For all the limitation of government action in the present set-up, the very fact that the land mafia-politicianofficial nexus could be taken on was a dream come true for all those who had been mute witness to the onslaught by the rich and the powerful. V S Achutanandan’s popularity soared as never before and public opinion was that only VS could have done it. A few months back, in a dispute with the official group on the question of taking a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for urban infrastructure development, VS had to bow before the majority decision and a warning from the politburo. This time around, it was the “popular” victory of VS in political terms that made the official group nervous and prompted Pinarai Vijayan to raise the issue of “rightful credit” for the Munnar operations. The credit for action against the land mafia in Munnar, according to him, was rightly the party’s and not the CM’s. Such statements issued by Vijayan, after his initial objections to the posting of upright bureaucrats for the Munnar operations and the association of some advocates close to the official group with the land mafia came to light, could do little to stem the wave in favour of Achutanandan.

The present developments have occurred prior to the forthcoming party conferences. The official group in its concerted bid to rid the party of VS supporters is on a disciplinary drive in which hundreds of party workers have been expelled all over the state. What goes on stealthily is the cleansing of the party in tune with neoliberal times. Nothing else can explain why V S Achutanandan who has declared war with the “neo-rich” exploiters and also his supporters has now become an anathema to the official leadership. The politburo that ignores this political issue underlying the group tussle is only reiterating the neoliberal approach. The opposition of the VS camp to the ADB loan on the one hand and the clandestine ways in which the ADB loan was signed by ministers belonging to the official group bypassing the cabinet and the chief minister on the other should have convinced the politburo of the politics of the matter. Or the latter might have caught on to the surreptitious means by which the land mafia in Munnar was helped evidently by some in the official group. No doubt the VS camp has also shied away from theorising the issues

Economic and Political Weekly June 9, 2007 underlying the group tussle and elevating what is perceived to be a power struggle at the cost of the people’s democratic movement. The nexus with the neo-elites, corruption at all levels of the party, the neoliberalism approach and the framing of alternate policies are the core issues on which the CPI(M) could have embarked on a rectification campaign. However, as demonstrated in the invitation to the cine star Mammootty to inaugurate the Democratic Youth Federation of India conference at Chennai where the cine star called on the youth not to resist globalisation but to break it from within, the CPI(M) leadership itself appears unwilling to take such a course. The present disciplinary action will only mean the removal of some individuals from here and there before the ensconcing of a leadership fully committed to neoliberalism and the status quo. Email:


Economic and Political Weekly June 9, 2007

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