Friday, January 4, 2008

Will the party capture the government?

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala has completed more than half the district conferences. For the first time in its history, the party drew up guidelines specifically for the conferences and elections in the State in view of the widespread sectarianism. Both factions have complained of violations of the guidelines. Considering the party’s number of branches and membership, it can be seen that the proceedings have been gone through fairly smoothly. It is now time to think of the next step.

The question that comes up immediately is: what will happen at the State conference, scheduled to be held at Kottayam in February? State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan says sectarianism in the party has lessened and will be completely eliminated with the Kottayam meet. The Communist movement has developed a language of its own to meet its needs. It is that lingo that the Secretary regularly uses. When his words are translated into the language developed by our media, we get something like this: At Kottayam the Pinarayi faction will cut down the VS faction. In our conversational language, it can be rendered as follows: Pinarayi faction will win; VS faction will lose.

The State party is in Pinarayi Vijayan’s grip even now. So the Kottayam conference will not lead to a new situation. However, Pinarayi Vijayan will return from Kottayam with his hands considerably strengthened.

At Kottayam, the delegates will decide who must lead the party. That is the party’s internal matter. The party has a high place in the power structure in Kerala and it is leading the administration at present. This is what prompts others to take an interest in the power struggle in the party. The real question before us therefore is whether Pinarayi Vijayan will capture the government after he captures the party.

What must be the relationship between the organizational wing and parliamentary wing of the ruling party? This is an issue which every democratic society has confronted. Countries with a stable parliamentary system have answered the question more or less satisfactorily. Under the tradition evolved by them, the organizational wing has the right to lay down policies and programmes. The leadership of the parliamentary wing will have the freedom to carry on the administration on the basis of these policies and programmes without day-to-day interference. The precedents established by democratic countries allow the head of the government complete freedom to choose the members of the Cabinet. This is done so as to create conditions necessary for him to discharge the responsibilities the party has entrusted to him.

In India, the Communists are able to come to power in their strongholds through the democratic process. Yet the Communist parties hold fast to the theory that this is not true democracy. In the Communist concept of democracy, the party is above everything else. The party secretary is above the prime minister. A person’s status is determined not by his position in the government but by his position in the party. Pinarayi Vijayan had given up ministership and taken up State party secretaryship, upholding this principle. However, Kerala society considers ministership superior to party posts. That was why most members of the party’s State secretariat scrambled aboard the Cabinet.

It is well-known that the attempt made before the Assembly elections to deny V.S.Achuthanandan the chief ministership failed because of voices of protest from within the party and even more from outside it. The Politburo, which altered the decision not to field him as a candidate, did not create favourable conditions for him to function. What Achuthanandan has been experiencing what no Communist chief minister experienced previously. Ministers belonging to his own party have been defying him. He is forced to carry on with ministers who have proved themselves incompetent and become the butt of ridicule.

New leaders, like the new-rich, come with certain bad habits. There is no better place than Kerala to understand the bad ways of both these groups. The CPI (M), which has been in the parliamentary field for long, must recognize some facts. One of them is that it is not able to provide good ministers. The reasons lie in the party’s current practices. The sooner it corrects them the better – for the party itself.

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