BARELY a month after the State leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demonstrated its grip over the party apparatus, new pressures are building up on it to mend its questionable ways.
In the elections held in advance of last week's triennial party congress at Coimbatore, State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had firmly established control over party units at all levels, circumscribing Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan's influence within the organisation. He was able to pack the State contingent to the congress with his supporters.
The few Achuthanandan followers who were listed to speak were allotted subjects that provided little scope to air views on inner-party issues. The leadership's strategy prevented the manifestation of any signs of sectarianism at the congress.
However, the central leadership was not convinced that sectarianism had ended, as claimed by Pinarayi Vijayan.
It said efforts to eliminate sectarianism must continue. The elevation of State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan to the Politburo, the party's highest policy-making body, can be seen as yet another step taken by the central leadership to contain sectarianism, which has been the bane of the party for several years.
Media reports had indicated that either Paloli Mohammed Kutty or MA Baby would be included in the Politburo in the vacancy created by the retirement of some elderly members.
However, the central leadership's choice fell on Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who was junior to them in the party hierarchy, as he became a Central Committee member after them.
Paloli, Baby and Kodiyeri all belong to the official faction and have stood with Pinarayi Vijayan in the sectarian war.
Observers believe the central leadership bypassed Paloli and Baby and promoted Kodiyeri since it considered him a better instrument to further its anti-sectarian initiative.
Political observers feel that the arrival of yet another Politburo member in the arena can change the equations within the State party. Should the need arise to find a new Chief Minister or State party secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan will be a strong contender, thanks to his new status.
According to insiders, although a member of the Pinarayi faction, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has made conscious efforts in the recent past to create the impression that he was not a blind camp-follower.
They also claim that Kodiyeri, conscious of his responsibilities as home minister and local legislator, sought to distance himself from the vengeful approach of the party's Kannur district leadership during the recent clashes between CPI-M and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists at Thalasseri.
Pressure is building up on the leadership from outside the party, too, to maintain peace in Kannur. The National Human Rights Commission has called for a report from the State government on the political murders in the district.
The High Court has sought a comprehensive report from the police on the progress in the investigation of the murder cases.
Last month, while referring to the Central Bureau of Investigation a murder case from Kannur, in which a CPI-M activist is the main accused, Justice V Ramkumar of the High Court referred to the recurring violence in the district and said Central forces, which were not amenable to the influence of the State government, must be deployed to restore peace. Pinarayi Vijayan immediately called a press conference to deplore the judge's remarks as unwarranted.
The Chief Minister told the State Assembly that the judge's comments were unconstitutional and most inappropriate. He also said the government would move an appeal to get them expunged.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the judge had made observations on matters which were not before the court. He asserted there was no need to deploy Central forces as the State police was capable of controlling the violence.
Last week, while disposing of the bail application of a murder case accused from the district, Justice R Basant directed the Director-General of Police to submit within 45 days an exhaustive report on the progress in the investigation of all murder cases involving CPI-M and RSS activists.
The judge asked that steps be taken for speedy, proper and efficient disposal of all cases. He indicated that if the government's response was not satisfactory the court might go beyond the scope of the bail application and initiate action on its own to bring all similar cases under its ambit.
Advocate General CP Sudhakar Prasad said the government would challenge the directive in a higher judicial forum. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, April 7, 2008.