Monday, February 16, 2009

Karat-brokered truce in Kerala CPM collapses

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The bitter feud within Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) deepened yesterday.
A day after CPM general secretary Prakash Karat claimed to have sorted out problems in his home state, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and his archrival and state unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan continued their shadowboxing.
Achuthanandan refused to absolve Vijayan in the multimillion rupee scam involving SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian engineering and construction major, and vowed to continue his “fight against corruption.”
“I will continue my fight against corruption,” the chief minister said about the CPM politburo decision backing Vijayan on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) move to prosecute Vijayan. “I have fought against the corrupt deals of (former chief minister K) Karunakaran and (and his power minister) Balakrishna Pillai and I will continue my fight.”
The politburo reportedly asked the 86-year-old veteran to “shut up” and warned him against making “out-of-the-line” statements during his weekly cabinet briefings to the press instead of highlighting his government’s achievements.
After its six-hour-long meeting, Karat said the Congress brings up the case up “every time an election comes.”
“The decision to go ahead with the SNC-Lavalin contract was taken up by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government headed by E K Nayanar after it was initiated by the earlier Congress-led government. The proposal was discussed by the state secretariat of the party and Pinarayi Vijayan as the minister for electricity implemented the decision,” the politburo said.
Reacting to Achuthanandan’s statement, Vijayan said whatever he did when he was the power minister 12 years ago was with the knowledge and approval of the party. He repeated Karat’s statement that the CBI case against him was politically-motivated.
“In this party, nobody takes decisions individually. Whatever fight that Achuthanandan took up as opposition leader was collectively decided and assigned to him by the party,” Vijayan said. “Individuals do not take credits in our party.”
The CPM politburo had rejected Achuthanandan’s demand for Vijayan’s removal and instead threw its weight firmly behind the state secretary on the 1997 deal saying it was a party decision.
“VS (Achuthanandan) is not a one-man army against corruption. He is a product of the party. The so-called war against corruption was actually thought of and decided by the party. Achuthanandan was only implementing the party’s directions,” Vijayan said.
Vijayan resumed his Nava Kerala Yatra march yesterday and addressed a series of meetings. “See the heavy turnouts at the meetings prove that the party is united. All those who are in the party are in the yatra too,” he said.
Analysts feel Achuthanandan, who has publicly distanced from the state-wide march, is clinging onto the chair while refusing to toe the party line to force the leadership to expel him so that he can become a “martyr” in the fight against corruption.
Governor R S Gavai had referred the CBI request for Vijayan’s prosecution to the government which in turn passed it on to the Advocate General, who is a CPM nominee, seeking legal opinion. In what is interpreted as a reprieve for the party until the general elections, the Kerala High Court last week gave three months for the government to take a decision.
The CBI investigation was ordered by the high court on a public interest litigation based on the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that found irregularities in the Rs3.74bn deal.

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