Crisis in the Kerala CPM – fight between old rivals picks up over a murder

The Kerala CPM party has been in the throes of an ugly rivalry for some time now, and it is a very unique rivalry. On one side is the vote getter and very popular leader of the party, Achuthanandan, who is now in his late 80’s. He is the the known face of the party in the minds of the public, and is credited with being able to put up a fight in the last election against the Congress, almost getting the party in the lead. But a measure of his importance within the state apparatus of the CPM is the fact that he was almost denied a ticket in the elections, and was only given a seat when it became clear that this decision would backfire. He has almost no hold on the party organization and hierarchy in the state, and even when he was the Chief Minister, there would be times when his own ministers would not listen to him.
On the other side is the person who has the entire party apparatus in the state as being loyal to him, Pinarayi Vijayan. Vijayan controls the entire organization of the CPM in the state of Kerala, which makes him important for the party, since Kerala is now one of the few states where the CPM remains an important political entity. However, it is also true that the central leadership of the party is aware of the importance of Achuthanandan and has to step in from time to time to ensure that the Kerala state CPM measures against the former Chief Minister are moderated, or even reversed in some cases. There is not much of a belief that Vijayan has the charisma or the popular appeal to win elections.

They keep sparring over many issues, with the latest flash point being over the brutal murder of a former CPM leader, TP Chandrashekharan, who was murdered recently. TP Chandrashekharan was expelled from the CPM (in effect, after he had decided to leave the party and form his own party, Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP). Now, since he had been expelled from the party, the party apparatus had decided that he was not affiliated to the party in any way, and hence no need to have any sympathy for him. And guess who went to pay his respects, no one other than the former CPM Chief Minister, Achuthanandan. It has been alleged that the decision to murder him was taken after it became clear that his new party was a threat to the CPM.
Now, the ruling Congress in the state is seeing this as a major tool in the fight against the opposition CPM, with the investigating team having already picked up a few local CPM leaders over the murder; and even this has brought out the difference. While the CPM secretary Vijayan protested against the police action, the former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan did not support the allegations against the police action, instead stating that if there were complaints against the police action, this could go to the courts. This will no doubt increase the bad blood between VS and the members of the party organization in Kerala.

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