Bengaluru: The old-school comrades in Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM don’t seem to be very happy with the unconventional decisions of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, particularly with the appointment of Harvard economist Gita Gopinath as the CM’s honorary economic advisor.

V.S. Achuthanandan, the octogenarian mass leader of the CPM, has reportedly shot off a letter to party secretary Sitharam Yechury, criticizing the appointment.

The appointment of Gopinath, who is thought to advocate neo-liberal economics, contradict the policies of the party, he said in the letter, according to Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi.

“There exists a shadow of doubt over the appointment of person, who follows neoliberal ideas. The central leadership should immediately intervene to allay the concerns of the public," the newspaper quoted the letter as saying.

Mint could not independently confirm the development. Achuthanandan is in Thiruvananthapuram for his annual Ayurvedic medical treatment and was not immediately available for comment.

“I have not seen it (the letter) myself. But from what I’m hearing the news seems to be true," said a senior CPM leader and a member of politburo, its apex decision making body, requesting not to be named.

The development comes at a time when the party’s politburo, known as PB, is supposed to meet this weekend. The said concerns of Achuthanandan will be taken up in the meeting, added the CPM leader quoted above.

Gopinath, 44, is John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University—the third woman and the first Indian after Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to become a tenured professor at the Ivy League University.

Her family originally belongs to Kerala’s Kannur district.

Her appointment as financial advisor to the CM of Kerala, one of only two Left-ruled states in India, comes at a time when the CPM, after disastrous electoral performances in recent years, is trying to make a comeback as a strong opposition to the Union government’s pro-liberalisation economic policies.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that the faction led by Achuthanandan, a former chief minister, has accused Vijayan of deviating from the Left’s professed ideals.

Earlier, Achuthanandan had questioned Vijayan’s alleged support to Fourth World theorists, affluent lifestyle and his role in an alleged scam, which had led to Vijayan staying away from electoral politics for a long time. (The Fourth World theory is an alternative to Marxism, and propounds class cooperation as opposed to class conflict.)

Former planning board vice-chairman and leading Left economist Prabhat Patnaik has also criticized Gopinath’s appointment, said Malayala Manorama, another Malayalam newspaper. However, Patnaik, while talking to Mint, over phone from Delhi, said he did not make a specific comment on the appointment but was making a case of his principled opposition against neo-liberal economists.

Following the developments, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the party secretary in Kerala, and de facto the most powerful man within the organization at the state level, came out in defence of Vijayan on Thursday. Vijayan had unanimous support from the party in making the appointment, he said.

Not just people from the Left, the Congress party, the main opposition of CPM in Kerala, has also criticized Gopinath’s appointment. “The Left should explain whether it is trying to follow the footsteps of Narendra Modi government’s policies in Kerala, we cannot allow them to do it," said Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president V.M. Sudheeran.

The political opposition of the Congress is interesting because, according to a senior party leader, Gopinath was a “helping hand" in key programmes of the previous Congress-led state government. These included securing a loan from the Asian Development Bank and holding events such as the Global Investor Meet in the state, the leader said, requesting anonymity.

At that time, the Left leaders were against her, he added.

However, Vijayan got a pat on the shoulder from someone in the opposition camp on Friday. Shashi Tharoor, former UN diplomat and Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, praised Vijayan for the decision, adding that getting someone like Gopinath will benefit the state in the long run, Malayala Manorama reported on Friday.

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