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Discipline & punish

In the ultimate rebuff,the CPM Central Committee has finally decided to evict Kerala’s scrappy chief minister from the politburo.

In the ultimate rebuff,the CPM Central Committee has finally decided to evict Kerala’s scrappy chief minister from the politburo. One of the CPM’s founder-members,V.S. Achuthanandan has long been accused of showing scant respect for organisational unity and discipline. His career has followed a long snakes-and-ladders trajectory,as his political acumen,commitment and support among the people was often undercut by his unpredictability. In 1962,he organised a blood donation campaign for Indian soldiers during the Indo-China war,a move that put him at odds with his party. What then appeared as a callow,youthful streak of defiance continued to surface through Achuthanandan’s political life and is now interpreted as a codgerish,doctrinaire refusal to modulate his responses to his party’s context.

Though this action is unprecedented in its severity,he has faced disciplinary action three times before,most notably for his longstanding enmity with state unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan,one which got both of them temporarily suspended from the politburo in 2007. Vijayan,his one-time protégé,now largely helms the party and enjoys the support of the central leadership,but has been skating on thin ice after the SNC Lavalin corruption case. While the party decided to tough it out,sticking by their comrade,the CM,embarrassingly,commended the legal process and stuck up for the governor who sanctioned a CBI probe against Vijayan. He also made no effort to conceal his glee as the party was pounded in the election — one where he had again been at odds with several campaign decisions. He strenuously objected to many of the CPM’s alliances. Of course,it also happens that Achuthanandan’s opposition on many of these occasions found a happy overlap between ideological perfectionism and the desire to embarrass his party rivals.

With a conflict as large and damaging as this one,repercussions were unavoidable. The CPM is besieged enough as it is,post-election and the unrest in West Bengal,and the first thing it needs to repair is the Kerala unit,at war with itself. As the party leadership met this week,it decided to staunchly defend Vijayan “politically and legally”,while letting Achuthanandan continue as CM and instructing cadre to facilitate the smooth running of his administration. Whether this spot of firm action will heal the breaches in Kerala remains to be tested — but meanwhile,the Achuthanandan case exemplifies the CPM’s larger dilemma: dealing with the rigid deadwood that both gets in its way and mirrors its own difficult accommodation with changed times.

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First published on: 14-07-2009 at 11:17:36 pm
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