CPM state meet: No VS between Pinarayi and party


The Ernakulam conference will pave the way for the rise of the new line of leaders within CPM. Two prominent faces who are all set to lead the party from the front could be Mohammed Riyas and P Rajiv, who are currently there in the Pinarayi cabinet.

V. S. Achuthanandan

There is an interesting scene in 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting', the novel by the Czech novelist Milan Kundera. Clement Gottwald, the Czech communist leader, was waving to hundreds of thousands of people assembled at the Old Town square in Prague. It was snowing and cold, and Clementis, one of the comrades who was standing by the side of Gottwald, saw that his leader had no hat on his head. On the spur of the moment Clementis took off his fur cap and put it on the bareheaded Gottwald. That was a Historic moment. A moment of communist fraternity and camaraderie. The moment was captured and framed. One of the bigger frames found its place at the Old Town Square.

But within a span of four to five years, Clementis became a persona non grata to the Communist Party. The party propagandists worked overtime to erase even the remotest memory of Clementis. The frames that carried him along with Gottwald were removed. Later when those frames came back Clementis was not in the picture. But one thing remained - the fur cap on the head of Gottwald. Even Though Clementis was thrown out of history his cap was still there.

Sometimes history has it's own strange ways to remind us of certain truths. However hard one tries, some facts will remain just like the fur cap of Clementis. Kundera and Clementis were brought back to memory by the article that A K Balan, one of the prominent leaders of CPM in Kerala, wrote in the Mathrubhumi daily last Saturday. Balan penned the article titled appropriately 'From Ernakulam to Ernakulam' in the context of the upcoming CPM state meet in the commercial capital of Kerala. If there is one outstanding name that Balan does not mention in this article it will be that of VS Achuthanandan , the most popular face of the party in the state. It may not be a coincidence that Balan misses the name of the former CM in the article which otherwise is an encomium on Pinaryi Vijayan, the current CM of kerala. It was VS who led the LDF in 2016 assembly elections from the forefront. In that sense Pinarayi owes his first CM post to the hard work of VS.

Sitharam Yechuri, the General Secretary of CPM, then described VS as the Fidel Castro of the party. And that was the beginning of the sidelining of the epochal leader within the party. Balan's article indicates that this installation of VS into the book of forgetting has gained more momentum. VS won't be attending the state meet since he is ailing from various age related problems. But still there will be the shadow of VS on this conference just like that fur cap of Clementis.

Ernakulam again after a gap of 37 years

Balan reminds us of the fact that Ernakulam is hosting the CPM state meet after a gap of three and a half decades. It was in 1985 that the state meet was held in the district before this . That was the time when the party was shaken by MV Raghavan's 'badal rekha' ( alternative document). It is a fact that the party was rankled by the MVR revolt. MVR was the most prominent face of the party then after the stalwarts like EMS, Nayanar and KR Gouri. The growth of PInarayi within CPM was facilitated by the expulsion of MVR. Pinarayi was elected as the supremo of the Kerala CPM at the Palakkad state conference in 1998. And he continued in that post till 2015 when he handed over the mantle to Kodiyeri Balakrishnan at the state meet at Alappuzha.

The most decisive moment of the Alappuzha conference was the walk out by VS. Dissents and disagreements form the foundations of democracy. Prof. Kunhaman has made an incisive observation about EMS. Kunhaman used to attend various seminars held at AKG centre, Thiruvananthapuram in the 90s. One day EMs approached Kunhaman and asked him why he was keeping quiet without intervening in the debates. Kunhaman told EMS that some comrades didn't like his criticisms of EMS and the party. EMS' response to this was classic ! ''I should be criticised. I am not God not to be criticised.'' EMS knew that it was not worshippers but critics who paved the way for the growth of a movement and ideology.

It is interesting to note that CPM views dissents and disagreements as factionalism. When the party labels the ideological battles within the organisation as factionalism that results in the negation and denial of the open, beautiful democratic premises. One of the statements by Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in 2018 after he was elected as the state secretary for a second term was that factionalism had ended in the party. He made it crystal clear that henceforward the party would have only one voice and one face. Today, nobody in CPM will have any doubt as to who that voice and face is.

Retention of power and Pinarayi

Kodiyeri presented the agendas before him and the party on the last day of the Thrissur Conference. Retaining power for a second term was the foremost among them. CPM had always faced the question why the party couldn't repeat a Bengal in Kerala. Kodiyeri said that the party intended to get more than 50% of the votes polled in the assembly to retain power in the state. CPM achieved the goal of retaining power in the last election. It is another thing that Kodiyeri was not in the seat of the state secretary then due to health issues. But the other agenda of getting more than 50 per cent of the votes still remains a dream to the party. The left front under the leadership of Pinaryi gathered 45% of the total votes polled. It must be recalled here that LDF got 48 per cent votes in the 2006 election when it was steered by VS.

Pinarayi has no opponents within the party now. His command over the party and the government is total. Whenever an honour comes his way the renowned musician A R Rahman responds like this : ''all glory to God.'' The response of leaders like Balan within the party in Kerala will be on similar lines: ''All the credits to Pinarayi!'' Home ministry, which was handled by Pinarayi himself, was in the dock for many lapses that were criticised by all sections of the society. Still, the party couldn't even think of handing over the portfolio to somebody other than Pinarayi, when the party registered a historical victory in 2021and formed the second Pinaryi cabinet.

Pinarayi was the only leader who got an exemption to the party rule that all the members of the new cabinet from CPM should be new faces. Veterans like Thomas Isaac, EP Jayarajan, G Sudhakaran and KK Shailaja were among those who were denied cabinet berths in the second Pinarayi ministry. P jayarajan, the former kannur district secretary, who was highlighted as the most promising leader after Pinarayi and Kodiyeri , too was sidelined in the party during tthis period. Now , the party has made it mandatory that those who cross 75 will have to retire from party posts. But as usual, it is certain that Pinaryi will be exempted from this as well.

In all likelihood the Ernakulam conference won't be witnessing any hardcore criticism against Pinarayi. The role of Shivshankar, the most trusted principal secretary of the CM in the controversial Sprinklr deal, UAPA and gold smuggling too may not find any reference in the meeting. The questions on the K-Rail project will also have no takers in the conference. Because, right now, it is Pinarayi Vijayan, not EMS, Nayanar, KR Gouri, or VS who is the heart and soul of the party. EMS, who famously said that he was no God not to be critiqued, is now just an enlarged frame on the walls of the CPM state conference in Ernakulam.

Kodiyeri and the second line in CPM

It is almost certain that Kodiyeri will be elected as the state secretary of CPM for a third term in the Ernakulam conference. But he will have to give up the post in the 2025 state meet as the party rules deny a fourth term to the same person. That means Kodiyeri will be the CM candidate of CPM in the 2026 assembly elections. But then the question is who will succeed Kodiyeri as the CPM state secretary? It is doubtful if Thomas Isaac or EP Jayarajan will be considered for the post. There is a call to make KK Shailaja, the next state secretary. It will be a radical move by all means. But it appears a remote possibility in the current political equations within the party.

The Ernakulam conference will pave the way for the rise of the new line of leaders within CPM. Two prominent faces who are all set to lead the party from the front could be Mohammed Riyas and P Rajeeve, who are currently there in the Pinarayi cabinet.

Dissents don't die

There is no end to dissents in democracy. If dissent has no place then it means the death of the party. In Spite of the party's claims that nationalism has ended in CPM, it remains a fact there are still voices of rebellion within the party. Thomas Isaac, G Sudhakaran, EP Jayarajan and KK Shailaja may be lying low right now. But they would rise in revolt once they feel the time is ready.

It is doubtful if Kodiyeri will be able to have total control over the party like PInarayi. The central leadership is also waiting in the wings to regain command over the state unit of the party. Therefore , it will be interesting to see the evolution of the new line of equations between the central and state leaderships in the party in the post Pinarayi scenario.

As said earlier, one of the most decisive factors that will mark this state meet will be the absence of comrade VS. It is more so because VS has been the moral force within the party that withstood the temptations and traps of the neo liberalised world. One may recall the words of Berlin Kunhanathan Nair, the CPM fellow traveller, that EMS and VS have been the only CMs who refused to be hosted by Captain Krishnan Nair, the late CMD of the Leela group of hotels. VS is defined and determined by his quest for justice. And CPM will have to walk the extra mile now when such a moral force is not there to take care of the wellbeing of the party.

When asked about the historical relevance of Yuri Gagarin's journey into space , CP Ramachandran, the late deputy editor of Hindustan Times gave a pertinent reply. CP pointed out that any act becomes historical only when the person concerned has the freedom to choose. Personal liberty was somewhat a comedy in the erstwhile Soviet Union. Gagarin was ordered to travel to space and he obeyed. It was nothing more and nothing less. If freedom is taken as a criterion it is anybody's guess if the Ernakulam conference will be termed as historical or not!

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