The ghosts of communism are being exhumed in Kerala to settle scores within the CPI(M). The main protagonist in this war is VS Achuthanandan, Leader of the Opposition in the assembly. Recently, Achuthanandan dropped a bombshell when he compared the style of functioning of state party secretary and arch-rival Pinarayi Vijayan to that of Shripad Amrit Dange, the one-time powerful general secretary of the undivided communist party. Achuthanandan reminded Vijayan how the party was split in 1964 when the CPM was formed purely because of the rigid, right-wing, revisionist stand of the late Dange. He minced no words to say that the actions of Vijayan and his coterie were responsible for the erosion in the state party.
For years now, these two leaders have been fighting a no-holds-barred war for the control of the party. Vijayan has full control of the party now with almost 12 out of the 14 district units owing allegiance to him. Achuthanandan has been fighting a lone battle. The immediate provocation for Achuthanandan’s outburst was the murder of a dissident on May 4. TP Chandrashekaran, who left the party on the same grounds of “autocratic, revisionist functioning of the secretary”, had started the Revolutionary Marxist Party. His instant appeal with the masses had annoyed the CPI(M)’s leadership and there had been at least nine attempts on Chandrashekaran’s life in the past.
The day he was murdered, allegedly by supari killers, the people and a majority of the party cadre believed that the CPI(M) was behind the murder, though the party denied it. Achuthanandan who cocked a snook at the party by attending Chandrashekaran’s funeral, also spelt out who, according to him, was responsible for the killing. That is when he evoked Dange to remind Vijayan that he too would meet the former general secretary’s fate sooner or later. A few years after the 1964 split, Dange was unceremoniously kicked out of the CPI.
Achuthanandan seems to be not far off the mark and his moves are calculated. Days after the murder, many a CPI(M) leader has been arrested, all of them belonging to the Vijayan camp, also known as the Kannur lobby in the party. Kannur is the state’s own ‘killing fields’ with the CPI(M) involved in each and every murderous clash.
Even as the CPI(M) is trying to remove the confusion within the cadre, a Vijayan loyalist and Idukki district committee leader MM Mani has come out with a statement that the party had killed its rivals in the past and would not hesitate to do so in the future. He even reeled out the names of the people killed by the party. And Mani must know, for he has been the district secretary for the past eight terms. A red-faced Vijayan has reprimanded Mani for his comments, but his silence over the fact of the killings is deafening.
This has added much ammunition to Achuthanandan’s armoury. A week after raising the ghost of Dange, he wrote to the central leadership saying Vijayan was leading the party to disaster. It has been reported that he has even demanded a complete restructuring of the state party leadership. The known links of the party to the underworld and the different mafias add credence to Achuthanandan’s letter.
One thing is clear. The 88-year-old Achuthanandan, who is the only living member among the 32 who broke with Dange to form the CPI(M), is on a last-ditch effort to cleanse the party. He has nothing to lose.
His last hope of returning to the Politburo, from where he was unceremoniously dropped for indiscipline, was dashed at the last party congress held in Kozhikode when the Pinarayi faction successfully stonewalled any such move in that direction. If he comes out of the party with his head held high, he will definitely become the toast of the Kerala public, not to speak of the rank and file of the CPI(M).
Santosh Kumar is a senior journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal