The factional feud within Kerala’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has intensified once again with the state’s chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan publicly criticizing the party-controlled television channel Kairali for telecasting an interview with a controversial entrepreneur.
The two dominant factions in the party, one led by Achuthanandan and the other, his rival and CPM’s state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, have been at odds for some time. The tug of war between the two leaders had, in May, led to their suspension from the party’s highest policy-making body, the politburo.
This time, the media is being used to fight pitched battles between the two groups. Kairali channel has been running an interview for the past two days with Pharis Aboobacker, an entrepreneur, whom the chief minister had earlier dubbed a “hated” person.
This combination file picture shows CPM Kerala state secretary P. Vijayan (left) and Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan
The Vijayan faction, which controls the party’s media properties such as the Kairali channel and the Deshabhimani daily, had been under the scanner for the past few weeks, after reports that the daily’s management borrowed Rs2 crore from a lottery agent, surfaced in the local media.
The maturity and coupon of lottery king Santiago Martin’s bond are not known.
The reports put the party in the dock as Achuthanandan, during his earlier tenure as Opposition leader, had led a campaign against inter-state lotteries. The party was forced to announce that the money would be returned to Martin, whose Martin Lottery Agencies Ltd sells one out of every four lottery tickets sold in the country. This had to be done even as the daily was facing a financial crunch.
Soon after, it was reported that controversial businessman Aboobacker had donated Rs60 lakh to a soccer tournament organized by CPM in memory of the late E.K. Nayanar, a former chief minister and party stalwart.
Aboobacker is facing civil trial in Singapore over his involvement in the National Kidney Foundation Singapore scandal of 2005. In the interview with Kairali, however, he said he had lost around Rs30 crore through his association with the foundation.
Aboobacker has recently been in the limelight in the state following the acquisition of a significant stake in Church-supported Malayalam daily Deepika. During the interview, he said that he would return the stake to the Church soon and would launch a new Malayalam daily.
Achuthanandan had publicly denounced the party’s acceptance of Rs60 lakh from a ‘hated person’ saying the party would probe the matter.
In the interview with Kairali, Aboobacker claims he had donated the amount “out of love for sports”. He also claimed that he had earlier been contacted by Achuthanandan through a bishop but did not explain why the chief minister contacted him. Achuthanandan has denied the claim saying he had no reason to do so.
With the worsening infighting within the ruling party of the state showing no signs of easing, the state administration, grappling with viral fever and monsoon havoc, is the biggest victim.