CPM must ask itself why its dissenting leader has a greater groundswell of public support
Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan and Shripad Amrit Dange had a fraught relationship. Back in 1964,Achuthanandan was one of the 32 members who walked out of the CPI National Council,protesting against the politics of Chairman Dange,to form the CPM. Over a quarter century later,VS found reason to invoke Dange again. In stinging remarks in May,he compared CPMs Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan to the old comrade. VS said Vijayan could meet the same fate as Dange,who was later expelled by his own party. Such public vehemence against the leadership is not tolerated by the CPM as a matter of course. After assessing this damaging turn in the protracted Vijayan vs VS battle,the party gave VS just a gentle rap on his knuckles. General Secretary Prakash Karat said VS had been publicly censured,a rather grandiose description for the veteran being pulled up by fellow comrades behind closed doors.
This mild disciplinary action does not reflect a newfound tolerance for dissent. It frames a different issue for the party: the CPMs inability to punish the dissenter and protect the official leadership here stems from the real and perceived groundswell of public support for the former rather than the latter. More than VSs vitriol,the party should engage itself with this question of why it is not seen to be on the right side of political and ideological battles.
This is a troubled time for the Kerala CPM,especially after the murder of a dissident comrade,for which several partymen have been implicated. It also brought out in greater relief the wedge between VS and Pinarayi and the incriminating comment. The party,which almost beat anti-incumbency in the assembly polls,has to ask itself why the leadership is unable to arrest the growing dissipation of goodwill in Kerala. After the erosion in Bengal,this could prove disastrous for the party.