The CPI(M) central leadership intervened again in the face of stiff opposition from its Kerala state unit, to guarantee an assembly seat to veteran leader VS Achuthanandan.
The 93-year-old, however, failed to get an assurance that he would not be sidelined after the poll.
Like the previous two elections, the patriarch has had to struggle to get into the candidate list which is yet to be made public. Will he or won’t he, was the question doing the rounds in Kerala for some time. Palakkad district committee, where his seat Malampuzha is situated, had initially suggested another candidate in lieu of Achuthanandan, but the central leadership came to his rescue.
By managing to get two warring leaders , Achuthanandan and senior leader Pinarayi Vijayan on board for the crucial assembly election, general secretary Sitaram Yechury has crossed a major hurdle. But the real challenge lies ahead if the Left manages to gain power in the state.
VS, as he is popularly referred to, had demanded an assurance from the central leadership that he wouldn’t be sidelined after the poll.
Vijayan’s loyalists fear Achuthanandan – who is a popular leader and shares a good rapport with Yechury --- will pose a threat to Vijayan at the eleventh hour. So they wanted VS to be at the helm of campaigning and not contest the polls.
“As of now the party gives a united look. But it has to accommodate VS properly after the poll. Going by his stature he will not allow anyone else to enjoy fruit of his popularity,” said a senior leader who did not wish to be identified.
The party’s politburo had made it clear that it would not tolerate a repeat of 2006 and 2011 when controversies erupted over his candidature.
True, a big challenge lies ahead for party after the poll. With prospects fading in West Bengal, the CPI (M) needs Achuthanandan more than ever in Kerala, and is relying on him to retain its glory. His presence in the poll battle will make a difference. So the party is forced to carry the veteran unmindful of his heavy baggage.
Inflexible, he often forgets the party is above his personality so the state unit had turned against him on many occasions; however, even on the verge of expulsion, the canny leader has bounced back with renewed vigour. The party knows well that it desperately needs its mascot to attract crowd and convert them into votes. During the last local body poll he campaigned like a seasoned war horse winning accolades from even opponents.
A school dropout, VS rose through the ranks of a then undivided Communist Party from the tender age of 16.A staunch party man, it was only when he began developing parliamentary ambitions in fag end of his career that the problems began.
Then he found an easy way to silence his critics. He championed social issues, fighting against corruption, sex rackets, land encroachment and deforestation, becoming something of a crusader among Kerala’s middle classes.
The palm oil import case against former chief minister K Karunakaran, corruption cases against former Power Minister R Balakrishna Pillai and notorious ice cream parlor sex racket and now the bar gate against former minister K M Mani all were instigated at his behest. In the process, he reinforced his image as a crusader - but also raised concern among the CPI (M) as being a man who would not adhere to the party’s diktats.
His arch-foe Pinarayi was his one-time aide and the two helped each other in the aftermath of the infamous anti-reclamation protests in 1996. Many leaders including M V Raghavan and P V Kunhikannan, then LDF convener, were thrown out of the party. Soon Pinarayi became the party secretary with his help. But when both began cultivating parliamentary ambitions they fell out and started encouraging their factions.