The CPI(M) has finally gone about setting its house in order. And the purge has started at the very top. The senior-most leader who has made a big contribution to the party in Kerala, chief minister VS Achuthanandan, has been unceremoniously removed from the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) for “violation of organisational principles and discipline” by the Central Committee.
However, he has been allowed to “fulfil his responsibilities as the Chief Minister and as a leader of the Party.” Which means he will not have to step down immediately. It remains to be seen whether VS, as Achuthanandan's is popularly known, abides by party discipline or take the road travelled by Somnath Chatterjee last year.
While the Central Committee is the highest authority of the Party between two all-India Party Congresses, the Polit Bureau carries on the work of the Central Committee between its two sessions and has the right to take political and organisational decisions in between two meetings of the Central Committee.
Achuthanandan's expulsion from the Polit Bureau comes in the wake of the unprecedented factionalism in the Kerala unit of the CPI(M). Indeed, the factionalism had reached an extent that “alien trends among some Party members which violate Communist norms, adversely affected the performance of the Party” in the last Lok Sabha elections in which the LDF was routed, winning only 4 of the 20 seats in Kerala.
In its last meeting on June 20-21 the Central committee had noted that “all such and other shortcomings and weaknesses should be critically and self-critically examined and rectified. A rectification campaign should be organised within the Party against all the shortcomings, mistakes and deviations. The disunity and wrong trends should be firmly put down.” And a beginning has been made with Achuthanandan's removal from the Polit Bureau.
The decision was taken after two days of intense debate on June 11 and 12 in which the Central Committee examined the report submitted by the Polit Bureau on the SNC Lavalin contract for the renovation and modernisation of three hydroelectric projects in Kerala, which were entered into by the UDF government in 1995-96 and which were subsequently implemented by the LDF government.
A communiqué to the media said: “The Central Committee is of the view that Com Pinarayi Vijayan, secretary of the Kerala State Committee and the Electricity Minister in the then LDF government between 1996-98 was not involved in any corrupt practice whatsoever. The Central Committee reiterated that the Party will fight the case politically and legally.”
But, of course, the Lavalin case is only a sideshow. Heads have started to roll mainly because of the CPI(M)'s rout in the Lok Sabha elections. The seats won by the LDF came down from 18 in 2004 to 4 in 2009 and only the CPI(M) in the LDF won seats in the elections.
The percentage of votes secured by the CPI(M) decreased by 3.16 per cent as compared to 2004 elections. The percentage of vote secured by the LDF declined from 46.08 in 2004 to 41.89 in 2009. On the other hand, the percentage of vote secured by the Congress-led UDF went up from 38.89 in 2004 to 47.75 in 2009 and seats from 1 to 16.
This is a fall of two lakh votes in this election for LDF compared to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and more than 9 lakh votes increase for UDF compared to 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Compared to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, LDF votes increased in 9 Lok Sabha constituencies and declined in 11 Lok Sabha constituencies this time. It is of little consolation to the Party that though its mass base was not substantially eroded, it lost ground especially among the Christians and Muslims.
Though the all-India trends influenced the elections in Kerala, there were the state-specific factors which decisively affected the elections. A section of the people who had rallied behind the LDF during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and 2006 Assembly elections moved away from the LDF with religious and caste leaders actively intervening in the elections in favour of the UDF.
The CPI(M) has conceded “the anti-Communist forces succeeded in weaning away a substantial section of Christian minorities from the LDF. The Catholic Church rallied other churches and openly campaigned against the CPI(M) due to its opposition to the
Education Act which sought to put in place some social control over self-financed colleges. Certain other controversies also came up during this period.
“Though there is no erosion of support base among the Muslim minorities, the efforts to expand our influence among them did not yield the expected results in many areas. (More importantly) the UDF and the media were successful in creating some confusion among a section of the secular minded people that the CPI(M) is also resorting to an opportunistic stand in the matter of getting the support of Madani's PDP to the LDF candidates.
“It may be necessary during elections to get support from different parties, groups and sections of people in elections, but at the same time, we should be careful to ensure that our secular identity does not get blurred by any such manoeuvres. We should have avoided having a joint platform with the PDP during the election campaign. It is to be noted here that the UDF got the support of the NDF or Popular Front which is an extremist outfit involved in communal and criminal activities.”
The most important conclusion reached by the Central Committee was on the factionalism plaguing the Kerala unit. “While the UDF was a united force, the disunity in the LDF was one of the factors for the defeat. The disunity in the Party and LDF had an adverse impact on the people. Some of Achuthanandan's statements during the campaign had an adverse effect and helped the opposition campaign.
The public controversies that erupted in the LDF just on the eve of Lok Sabha elections conveyed an impression in the minds of the people that the LDF was disunited and was fighting each other. It led to the dominant section of the JD(S) going out and opposing the LDF.
Even though the LDF government did many things for the common people, they were not adequately projected and people rallied to support, because of the never-ending controversies in the leadership of the Party and government.
Above all, the UDF made use of the SNC Lavalin case to create confusion in the minds of the people. The media used the Lavalin issue as the central issue in the elections. In fact media reports were mainly confined only to three issues – the Lavalin controversy, PDP's support to the LDF and disunity in the Party and the LDF.
However, the Party failed to assess the magnitude of the setback till the counting day.
In its assessment, the Central Committee said,”We were hopeful of getting more than a majority of seats for the LDF. The Party has to identify why such a wrong estimation was made. It should be examined whether factionalism has adversely affected the organisational work in certain areas.”
The Central Committee's communiqué today has confirmed that factionalism in the CPI(M) can no longer be swept under the carpet, as in the past. Indeed, Achuthanandan's removal from the Polit Bureau is just the beginning. The purge – or the “rectification campaign against all the shortcomings, mistakes and deviations” - has to go down to the primary unit level to rebuild the CPI(M) into a fighting machine it once was.
Roger And Out