Saturday, February 14, 2009

CPI-M faces moment of truth in Kerala

Feb 12 2009

New Delhi: The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is battling a calamity following corruption charges against one of its veteran leaders in Kerala, a long-time bastion which elected the world's first communist government half a century ago.

CPI-M cadres and sympathisers are in shock as they see Kerala's Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan wage a quiet war against party leader Pinarayi Vijayan, who is again being haunted by charges that he wrongly awarded contracts to a Canadian company when he was a state minister 12 years ago.

While the CPI-M, India's dominant communist party, is confident of overcoming the strife, some of its critics feel this could be the start of the demise of the Stalinist party and the ideology it espouses.

"Don't assess the current development as an isolated one. The CPI-M has faced an ideological crisis for several years. It passed through different stages and now it is in its final stage," said eminent historian M G S Narayanan, who was once known for his Marxist moorings.

"Communism will be finished in this country within five or 10 years," Narayanan, who has in the past headed the prestigious Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), said over telephone from Kozhikode. "People have rejected communism in almost all countries. Even in China, communism exists only in name. Such a situation will come in India also."

Achuthanandan and Vijayan have been foes within the party for a long time, but the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) decision to move against Vijayan in the corruption scandal has reignited their row.

The controversy has affected the morale of the CPI-M cadres, who in Kerala number several thousands and are neatly divided into two camps led by the Chief Minister and the party strongman.

Said Sajoy George, a district leader of the CPI-M- linked Kerala School Teachers Association: "I am very much worried over the developments. It will defeat the spirit of communism. The party should be above persons."

But with their unending war, Achuthanandan and Vijayan have cast two long shadows on an otherwise regimented party.

The CPI-M leadership has rallied behind Vijayan, the more popular state secretary, saying the case against him is politically motivated.

But the older Achuthanandan insists that the tainted Vijayan should be removed from the post, going to the extent of hinting that he would resign if that did not happen.

Said Sajoy: "The two leaders failed to understand the sentiments of the masses. This episode has done big damage to the party. They must end this fight."

Noted Left analyst N P Chekkutty said: "The bureaucratic establishment that the Communist Party has become will not survive for long. The party seems to have become a massive tree without any deep roots. It is likely to wither away."

But Chekkutty, the founder editor of the CPI-M-owned Kairali TV, added: "At the same time, the working class need a strong political party. There is likely to be a new political formation to replace the present communist establishment."

Unlike Kerala's legendary Marxist leaders E M S Namboodiripad, A K Gopalan and E K Nayanar, who belonged to upper caste landlord families, Achuthanandan and Vijayan are from the Ezhava community with humble family backgrounds.

The CPI-M, which heads India's Left Front, denies it is in trouble.

"There is no ideological crisis in the party. Our party has more than 300,000 members in Kerala. We have overcome many crises," asserted Gopi Kottamurikkal, a CPI-M state committee member.

"During the last assembly elections too, the media said we are in crisis. But we won the elections with a thumping majority."

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