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Riding roughshod


Kerala CPM strongman Pinarayi Vijayan brooks no opposition within the party. T Satisan probes the reasons behind the controversial leader's abiding political clout
T SATISAN | Issue Dated: May 31, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan | VS ACHUTANANDAN |

He has been under fire for years but nothing, it seems, can fluster CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. He faces a serious corruption case, is accused of resorting to nepotism and autocratic ways and is alleged to be close to shady figures. Yet, he remains unscathed. Where does Pinarayi's power stem from?

His feud with former Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan is well documented. The party's central leadership invariably throws its lot behind Pinarayi instead of backing the man who led the last Left Democratic Front (LDF) government. The party needs Pinarayi for his proven ability to shore things up when the chips are down. He has been the state party chief for five consecutive three-year terms since 1998 and has led the CPM to many election victories.
Under Pinarayi's leadership the CPM won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats ever from the state - 18. He also led the LDF to a thumping majority of over 100 seats in the 140-seat Kerala Assembly.

K.S. Hariharan, Revolutionary Marxist Party deputy leader, says: "After the death of CPM Kannur district secretary Patyam Gopalan, militant elements led by MV Raghavan (MVR), Pinarayi Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan took over the party’s leadership. Old generation leaders with a Gandhian outlook like AV Kunjambu and O Bharathan were sidelined. Anybody who disagrees with Pinarayi is promptly expelled.”

Post-Emergency, the CPM in Kannur district witnessed an exodus of party workers to RSS. It triggered a bloodbath in Thalassery. Attacks and murders involving the CPM and RSS workers became a routine affair. The first post-Emergency murder of an RSS worker took place in Thalasserry in September 1978. Since then, more than 100 workers have lost their lives on both sides.

Though clashes and murders have not been reported for the last three years, many fear that this is the calm before a storm. The general belief is that the Kannur clashes had the silent approval of Pinarayi. The tensions of those years helped him kickstart his rise to prominence.

Chief spokesman of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee M.M. Hassan says: “Pinarayi always toes a Stalinist line and leads the Kannur lobby within the party. So, wherever there is a political clash, CPM is a common factor. They are always for violence and killings.”

In 1996, when E.K. Nayanar formed the CPM-led LDF government, Pinarayi was made the power minister. He soon became the blue-eyed boy of VS Achuthanandan, another power centre in the state CPM. Pinarayi took over as state secretary after Chadayan Govindan’s death, thanks to the blessings of VS. He was soon made a politburo member. He began purging out his rivals and posed a challenge to his mentor. He made it a point to ensure that no VS supporter occupied key posts in the state committee, state secretariat, district committee and district secretariat.

He tightened his grip on the party’s TV channel, Kairali, the party organ Desabhimani, and DYFI and SFI. From then on, Pinarayi and VS, whether as CM or leader of Opposition, have bickered publicly.

In the 2006 Assembly election, Pinarayi made sure that the state committee, state secretariat and politburo did not approve the candidature of VS. But the politburo had to eventually relent under pressure from supporters of VS who launched massive public protests. After the elections, due to the popular sentiment in favour of VS, Pinarayi had to approve the selection of VS as CM. However, though during Nayanar’s LDF regime the CM himself held the Home portfolio, VS had to surrender it to Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Pinarayi’s nominee.

Even though VS held the vigilance department, the party (read Pinarayi) asked him to pass it on to Kodiyeri. Even though he was “allowed” to continue as CM, every move of his was monitored. When the state went to polls in 2011, it was the same story. The party once again denied VS a ticket only to backtrack in the face of popular sentiment. Now, VS is the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly but the party apparatus is with Vijayan.

When public outbursts became the usual practice for both, the central leadership suspended both Kerala leaders from the politburo. The suspension was withdrawn a few months later. Pinarayi and VS returned to the old ways and hurled allegations at each other.

When rebel CPM leader TP Chandrasekharan was hacked to death on May 4, VS went to Kozhikode to pay homage to the departed comrade. TP was a supporter of VS before he left the party.

When the SNC-Lavalin scandal involving crores of rupees erupted, the entire party machinery, except VS, stood by Pinarayi. The politburo took the stand that Pinarayi could not be asked to step down until he was convicted by the court. Though Pinarayi has denied the party’s role in RMP leader Chandrasekharan’s brutal murder, many of the arrested people are local CPM office-bearers. Now Pinarayi has threatened the Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) government and the Kerala police that if they target CPM leaders, the party will convert itself into a 'burning torch'. 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017