Discipline & punish?

The CPM betrays a mystifying brittleness in Kerala

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 7, 2009 11:47:44 pm

A true communist should act according to the party programme on the judiciary,boomed the CPM mouthpiece Deshabhimani in rebuke to Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. What’s the country’s Constitution when the party’s constitution deems it fit to tar the courts or the CBI?

The CBI,which in a report to the Kerala High Court,accused Achuthanandan’s bete noire,state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan,of showing “ugly haste” in awarding a hydropower project to Canadian firm SNC Lavalin,has been dismissed by the CPM as politically manipulable. Achuthanandan,embarrassingly,has refused to toe the party’s conspiracy theory,staunchly sticking up for constitutional procedure. Whether this stems from genuine conviction or an understandable glee in seeing his arch-rival compromised,Achuthanandan has certainly braved the formidable CPM machine. A couple of years ago,Vijayan and Achuthanandan were suspended from the party’s politburo for their squabbling,and the rivalry between the two now threatens to split the cadre along the seams. Even as the CM throws his weight behind the rule of law,ministers have been actively campaigning for Vijayan,as per party dictum. For a party used to exacting standards of discipline and cohesion,this is an all-new low.

There is palpable discomfort among the CPM and its LDF allies in this campaign to vilify the CBI and declare the judiciary irreparably class-biased. After all,this is the same party that stood up for absolute decorum when a constitutional authority like the Election Commission was clouded by personal difference — why is it that when the matter concerns the party’s own,the CPM lashes out with such

insupportable claims? In recent months,the party has been undermining its own historical reputation as one of India’s cleanest parties. Even those who have ideological differences with the Left accept that its leadership has been near-faultless in terms of personal probity and principle. But in the recent past,in West Bengal and Kerala,they have displayed a troubling ability to dilute their own ideals,as well as a rigid refusal to tolerate dissent. They are acutely sensitive to imagined insult (as Somnath Chatterjee’s trust vote drama revealed,when the CPM’s inflexibility alienated its own supporters) and consistently unable to take the larger view,with the result that incidents like the Vijayan inquiry snowball into huge,existential dilemmas.

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