New Delhi: Accepting that its Third Front experiment had been a mistake, the apex decision-making body of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, prepared the ground for stringent measures to curb dissidence in its Kerala unit on Sunday, and signalled that the party may not favour banning the Maoists in West Bengal.
Most members who spoke at the two-day meeting of the central committee said the CPM’s attempt to offer the Third Front as an alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the eve of general elections had been a mistake, said a party leader who attended the meeting and didn’t want to be named.
At the meeting, which concluded on Sunday, the central committee, however, ruled out convening a special plenum to discuss the matter, according to a politburo member who also didn’t want to be named. A section of the party leadership had been keen on a plenum to “correct” the party’s position on a third alternative.
Expressing their concern over the party losing ground among the poor, central committee members said the organization and the state governments led by the CPM have to work hard to regain its support base among the poor, according to delegates. The CPM’s tally fell from 43 in the 14th Lok Sabha to 16 in the recent general election.
The meeting, which called for a “self-critical review of its poor performance in the 2009 general election”, was dominated by discussions on the intensifying factional feud in Kerala, according to another party leader, who also did not want to be named.
The infighting in Kerala’s CPM unit between two factions led by Pinarayi Vijayan and chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan took another ugly turn after state governor R.S. Gavai granted permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Vijayan in the Rs300 crore SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. corruption case, despite the state cabinet advising against it.
Kerala minister Thomas Isaac, an associate of CPM state secretary Vijayan, demanded the sacking of Achuthanandan. Even supporters of the chief minister conceded that some of his public statements over the corruption case amounted to “indiscipline”.
Isaac declined to comment for this story.
According to another leader who attended the meeting, Isaac, while presenting the state election review report on Saturday, said it was the chief minister’s style of functioning and his repeated public statements against Vijayan during the election campaign that had proved costly for the party.
Although the CPM officially criticized the decision to prosecute Vijayan, saying it was politically motivated, the chief minister sought to justify the governor’s action. The CBI then filed a chargesheet (a formal document of accusation) against Vijayan as one of the nine accused.
Although the Vijayan faction, which dominates the state unit, insisted that the chief minister be ousted, some leaders from the state as well as in the politburo are opposed to it, saying that a chargesheeted Vijayan should not continue as the party secretary.
“The CPM cannot afford its party secretary being arrested in a corruption case,” said one of the leaders cited earlier, who feels Vijayan should be asked to resign before the trial begins.
The party politburo will meet on 4 and 5 July for another discussion.
“After the discussions in the central committee, the party leadership has three options before it. It can ask Achuthanandan to step down, remove both Achuthanandan and Vijayan from their respective posts or censure Achuthanandan publicly for his indiscipline,” said a central committee member, who did not want to be named.
However, he added that a strong section of the CPM leadership does not favour Achuthanandan’s removal while the Kerala unit would oppose action against Vijayan.
Meanwhile, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat indicated that the party-led government in West Bengal may not favour banning the Communist Party of India (Maoists), which, backed by local tribals, has seized control of Lalgarh, a heavily forested part of the state.
“What difference is it going to make? Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh (other Maoist rebellion-hit states) have banned the organization. But the ground realities (in West Bengal and those states) are the same,” Karat told reporters.
Union home minister P. Chidambaram had on Friday said that the CPM-led government in West Bengal should ban the CPI (Maoist). Karat pointed out that by banning the organization the government could only stop its public meetings.
Paramilitary forces, along with the state police, are on a joint offensive against the Maoists in the Lalgarh region.