The sectarian war in the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which heads Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front, has flared up again. At the centre of the controversy is a sharp difference in the perceptions of the rival factions on use of the state’s limited land resources.
Following a meeting of the state committee early this month, the party unveiled a policy document, which was seen as an attempt to rein in Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, whom it obliquely accused of taking an extremist position on the issue of distribution of land to landless farmers.
Achuthanandan responded with an off-the-cuff remark characterising his critics in the party as opportunists.
Although there has been no public airing of differences by the Chief Minister since then, the party leadership has embarked upon a campaign to mobilise support for the policy document.
The campaign began with a series of articles in the party newspaper, Deshabhimani, by Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac, who had authored the policy document and moved it in the state committee meeting. As soon as Isaac’s series ended, state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan began another.
According to media reports, the state committee has distributed to lower committees for discussion a 78-page document, which is a virtual charge-sheet against Achuthanandan.
The party’s established procedure provides lower committees an opportunity to discuss policy documents and express their opinion before they are finalised. More often than not, the lower committees endorse such documents without reservations, but on rare occasions the higher committee made changes in them to accommodate views of the lower bodies.
The discussion on the new policy document at the lower levels may lead to consolidation of opinion within the party against Achuthanandan, making his continuance in office untenable.
Pinarayi Vijayan points out in his newspaper article that the policy document has been prepared in compliance with the decision taken by the of the party’s state conference at Kottayam to draw up guidelines for the government’s functioning.
The document says the government has taken steps to implement most of the promises in the LDF election manifesto, but the government has an image problem. It goes on to declare that a change in the chief minister’s style of functioning has become inevitable.
Most of the charges levelled against Achuthanandan in the document are those that were openly aired by the party leadership before the state conference. These include his failure to distance himself from the public campaign that forced the Politburo to reverse an earlier decision and allow him to contest the Assembly election. The new charges include failure to disown his supporters who conducted a boisterous demonstration on the last day of the state conference.
The issue which has emerged as the focal point in the renewed infighting in the party is that relating to establishment of special economic zones. Although the state committee asked the chief minister to forward all pending SEZ applications to the Centre, opposition from ministers belonging to the CPI and the Revolutionary Socialist Party has prevented a Cabinet decision.
Recently the chief minister stated that a decision of the SEZ issue would be taken in consultation with the national leadership of the Left parties. He cannot expect support from the CPI (M) national leadership in this matter since the party has already given the go-ahead for SEZs.
Pinarayi Vijayan says it is the state committee’s responsibility to ensure that the government functions in the manner envisaged by the party. The new policy document, he asserts, has been prepared in the light of the decisions of the party congress held at Coimbatore.
The congress took the view that it is not enough for the state governments under the party’s leadership to talk of measures to provide the people relief as the people expect these governments to take up development programmes which will raise their living standards.
The SEZ concept is not new to Kerala. The 100% export zone in Kochi is now a SEZ. The Smart City, to be built by the Dubai Internet City authorities, is envisaged as a SEZ.
The problem with most of the SEZ applications pending with the state government is that they are not from real estate operators whose sole aim is profiteer by acquiring and selling land. The party leadership feels they must be encouraged as they will be able to bring in investment. – Gulf Today, Sharjah, August 25, 2008.