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Potboiler
CPM struggles to quell friction
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

“If a Communist party doesn’t allow airing of differences you call it archaic, if it does you call it indisciplined. The important thing is can we sit and resolve these differences in our party fora?”

New Delhi, February 15
A big crisis building up in the CPM for last month or so, blew over yesterday with the party’s Politburo resolving to stand by its embattled Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. The SNC-Lavalin case, in which Vijayan has been implicated, is currently being investigated by the CBI. The crisis was resolved without publicly snubbing Vijayan’s arch-rival Chief Minister V.S Achutanandan.

For the time being the CPM is in a self-congratulatory mood because it has succeeded in making Achutanandan a party to the Politburo decision to defend Vijayan against the opposition campaign that the CPM is defending a corrupt politician who even the CM disapproves of.

A PB member pointed out, “The last time M.V.Raghavan had to leave the party due to differences. That is not happening and that is a good thing. We are functioning democratically. The differences between the two senior- most leaders of the CPM which leads the Left Front government in Kerala have been out in the open for long. In May 2007, the party had to suspend both temporarily from the PB for going public with their differences.

This time the issue at stake is a contract awarded by Vijayan in 1997 as Power Minister to a Canada-based company SNC-Lavalin, ignoring the claims of BHEL to revive and modernise three power plants in the state. According to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, in the process the state incurred a loss of Rs 370 crore.

The Congress-led UDF which assumed power after defeating the LDF in 2001, instituted a vigilance inquiry which did not yield much, according to the CPM. Recently some Congressmen went to the Kerala High Court which directed the CBI to investigate the case again.

While the party immediately sprang to Vijayan’s defence, and alleged that the Congress party was using the CBI for political purposes. Achutanandan took the plea that being the Chief Minister he could not criticise the CBI. Moreover, holding a constitutional office he was also bound to implement the High Court orders, even if the party or some partymen did not like it.

On the eve of the General Election, the PB has succeeded in projecting a picture of unity in the party at least for the time being by making Achutanandan a party to its decision. But none in the CPM is willing to hazard a guess how long this tenuous unity is going to last. A senior party leader said, “A doctor can tell you that the patient can be cured. He cannot tell you when the disease might strike again. When reminded that not so long ago both the leaders had to be suspended from the PB he quipped, “That really lasted long. The fact of the matter is that the CPM is no more a disciplined, cadre-based party, where no one stepped out of line without being rapped on the knuckles. Its apologists while acknowledging this say, “A cadre-based party does not mean a Hitlerian, Fascist party. Any democratic party should have differences. But in a democratic party you should be able to sit and resolve these differences.”

The CPM leader may have made light of the problem. But then the malaise is not restricted to Kerala alone. West Bengal Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty had only recently jumped the queue demanding that the party which had expelled Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as late as July last for disobeying the party line should invite him to rejoin the CPM.

In June-July last year when the CPM was facing an onslaught from opponent Mamta Banerjee over the land acquisition question relating to Nandigram and Singur, Chakraborty, unmindful of the fact that as a minister he held collective responsibility for all government decisions, criticised the government’s land acquisition policy.

Chakraborty has been getting away with the proverbial murder, solely due to his perceived proximity to former CM Jyoti Basu.

There are surely winds of change blowing in the CPM. Though leaders again try to make light of it saying, “If a

Communist party doesn’t allow airing of differences you call it archaic, if it does you call it indisciplined. The important thing is can we sit and resolve these differences in our party fora?”

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