The rift in Kerala's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) continued to widen Tuesday with party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan saying that it made no difference whether Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan attended the statewide march of the party.
"His presence or absence is not at all a problem because the decision for the statewide march was taken by the Central Committee of the party in which all are there," Vijayan said when asked about Achuthanandan's decision to not participate in the march.
Politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai flagged off the march led by Vijayan from Udma in Kasargode district Monday. Achuthanandan had then told reporters that he would not take part in the march at any stage.
The Nava Kerala Yathra, sanctioned by the central committee of the party in December, will cover the 140 assembly constituencies in the state and conclude with a massive rally in the state capital Feb 25.
Vijayan, an arch rival of Achuthanandan, is an accused in a case of irregularities in awarding a contract to Canadian firm SNC Lavalin when he was the state's power minister.
The Kerala High Court Monday asked Vijayan and three other accused to reply to a petition seeking their prosecution.
Asked about the Lavalin case, Vijayan shot back: "Yes, the high court has sent a notice and I will reply to it. I don't have to say anything here.
Achuthanandan and Vijayan are known rivals and head the two factions of the party. The chief minister had for long maintained silence over Vijayan's alleged involvement in the multi-million rupee scam, while most CPI-M leaders had openly defended the state party secretary.
The Congress-led opposition lost no time in criticising the rift in the CPI-M and said that the march held no significance.
"The march has lost its relevance because the CPI-M has failed to convince Achuthanandan on the reason behind the march being held," Congress legislator V.D. Sateeshan told reporters.