It is clear as daylight that State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan will emerge with increased strength from the conference of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), scheduled to be held at Kottayam. It is equally clear that the sectarian feud, which has been raging in the party for some years, will continue.
The party conferences from the branch level upwards had seen intense warfare between the rival factions. Now the battleground has shifted to the government. The General Administration department, which is directly under Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, issued last week a circular naming the Information Technology department, which is also under him, as the nodal agency for all IT projects.
The official notification in effect denies Industry Minister Elamaram Karim, who belongs to the Pinarayi Vijayan faction, the power to clear IT projects without reference to the Chief Minister. It is a direct sequel to the differences between Achuthanandan and Karim over the Cyber City project, which is supposed to come up on the land which HMT Limited, a Central government undertaking, sold to Blue Star Realtors, a Mumbai-based company. As was stated in this column last week, Karim had laid the foundation stone as Achuthanandan stayed away.
Alleging that the HMT land deal was illegal, the opposition United Democratic Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party have called for a judicial inquiry.
They have also demanded the resignation of Karim as well as Revenue Minister KP Rajendran. The two ministers had intervened to speed up completion of the land deal.
Material which has become public in the last few days make it clear that the CPI-M leaders and its trade union leaders had participated in the prolonged negotiations between the HMT and the Mumbai firm which resulted in the deal.
According to Gopi Kottamurickal, secretary of the CPI-M Ernakulam district committee, there were months of negotiations in which party and government representatives were involved. Although he was with Achuthanandan in the factional war, he has now distanced himself from the Chief Minister and thrown his weight behind Karim. Responding to his statement, Achuthanandan said Kottamurickal was talking without knowing all the facts.
When suspicions about the land deal arose, Karim had sought to extricate himself by saying the government was not involved in the deal and its only interest was to ensure that the State did not lose an IT project.
He, however, acknowledged that the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Kinfra) was fully aware of the transaction.
Pinarayi Vijayan, realizing that since Kinfra came under the Industries department, public acknowledgment of its role would implicate Karim, changed tack. He said the deal was between a Central undertaking and a private company, and the State government did not come into the picture. What began as a dispute between the two factions of the CPI (M) soon turned into an issue between the government and the party.
After the State Cabinet decided to ask a committee of officials, headed by the Chief Secretary, to go into the legality of the land deal, the party's State Committee decided ordered an inquiry by Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac. Neither the official probe nor the party probe is likely to carry conviction with the public.
The UDF has pointed out that an inquiry by officials in a matter involving ministers was only eyewash. Since the two ministers conducting the party probe are strong supporters of Pinarayi Vijayan, its outcome cannot be any different.
Last week the rival factions flooded the media with information designed to discredit each other's claims. Industries Ministry sources leaked material to establish that Achuthanandan was in the know of the developments. The Mumbai company had written to the Chief Minister seeking help to complete the transaction, and his office had passed it on to the Industries Minister for processing.
Material leaked by the rival camp showed that the Industries department intervened to facilitate the completion of the transaction ignoring notes from the Law department and the Collector of Ernakulam which said HMT was not entitled to sell the land.
Although the Revenue Minister acted in aid of the Industries Minister and helped to push the land deal, his party, the CPI, which is the second biggest constituent of the ruling front, has directed him to cancel the deal and resume the land. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, Februay 4, 2008.