With the CPI(M) central leadership leaving the state unit to decide on the candidature of 93-year-old veteran VS Achuthanandan, all eyes are on the party state secretariat meet on Tuesday. Will he or won’t he — a debate is on in party circles and outside.
Although he won’t suffer ignominy of the earlier two elections (in 2006 and 2011) when the central leadership had to intervene and ensure him a seat, this time it won’t be difficult. An ace crowd-puller, the party is banking on him to retrieve its prospects in one of its last forts. With an appetite for power, he has made it clear he is ready for another round. The central leadership had discussed it in detail in Delhi on Saturday but failed to reach a consensus.
A section of the state party feels that former secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who has kept away from electoral politics for a long time, should lead the campaign and be made CM if the LDF comes to power. They also cite VS’s failing health to buttress this argument. At the same time, they want VS to be at the forefront of electioneering. However, he has made it clear that if he is sidelined, he will lead a retired life and won’t be available for campaigning. The party can’t afford this risk now.
The central leadership wanted both men to contest, and decide the CM only after the poll. But Pinarayi loyalists fear that VS, with his popularity and rapport with party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, will pose a threat to Pinarayi.
In the state committee and secretariat, Pinarayi enjoys brute majority. To ensure smooth sailing, Yechury and Politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai will attend both on March 1 and 2. “The party has got a golden opportunity in Kerala now. We don’t want to give an impression that the central leadership imposes its decision on the state unit every time. Let it come out with a decision that suits all,” a senior leader said.
The state leadership had reprimanded VS on several occasions for his one-man style of functioning, but he fought a lonely battle and attained a cult status among the middle class. He walked out of the state conference last year and was abdicated from all party positions. Since he was an invitee in the party central committee, he can attend the state meet only by virtue of it.