13 Mar 2009, ET Bureau
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The symptoms of a meltdown in Kerala’ ruling Left Democratic Front that surfaced on Thursday, worsened into a full-blown recession today with the CPI leadership eye-balling coalition big-brother CPM and daring it to take the Ponnani seat away from the party.
The two communist parties that rarely bring their disagreements out into the open, today dumped tradition and held back-to-back press conferences, virtually taunting each other to take up their respective threats.
A furious CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan went to the extent of saying that the “CPM never learns a lesson”, and predicting that “the CPM will not win a single seat without CPI support”.
As if those words were not caustic enough, Mr Bhargavan added, “We will lose our three seats, and they (CPM) will lose all their seats”, appearing to take pleasure in the possibility of the CPM’s utter downfall in the forthcoming polls.
Mr Bhargavan said if the Ponnani seat were not to be given to the CPI, the party would field its own candidates in all the constituencies in the state barring the two constituencies where the Kerala Congress (J) and the Janata Dal (Secular) are contesting.
Asked if that meant the end of the Left Democratic Front coalition in the state, Mr Bhargavan snapped, “What else does it mean, then? If the CPM is insisting that all parties obey their diktat, where is the concept of a coalition?”
Later, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan clarified that the CPI had indeed been given four seats to contest, adding that the understanding in the LDF was that a mutually acceptable Left-backed independent would be fielded in Ponnani.
Hussein Randathani, who has the overt backing of the CPM has already begun campaigning in Ponnani, while the CPI has chosen A P Kunhamu, who has a bank trade union background, as its candidate for Ponnani. How the two communist parties sort out the issue of the Ponnani candidacy could well decide the outcome across all constituencies, say political observers.
Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (Secular), which is demanding the Kozhikode seat, may also follow the CPI example and stand firm on its demand. The CPI leadership’s allegation that the CPM was snatching the seats of coalition partners may embolden Janata Dal, too, to stick to its demand for the Kozhikode seat.
The CPI state executive is scheduled to meet on March 16, when a final decision is expected on the party’s continuance in the LDF. Observers here expect negotiations to continue between the CPM and the CPI over the next two days to amicably solve the Ponnani issue before March 16.