Monday, May 18, 2009

Poll reverses set stage for fresh faction fight in CPI-M

Gulf Today

THE Left Democratic Front (LDF) has begun a review of the causes of its humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. As was expected, there are indications that the rout will aggravate factionalism in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which leads the front.

The LDF, which had bagged 18 of the state's 20 Lok Sabha seats in 2004, could get only four this time. All four seats were won by the CPI-M. The CPI, which contested four seats, and the Kerala Congress (Joseph), which contested one, drew a blank.

Neither CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan nor LDF convener Vaikom Viswan faced the media after the results became known on Saturday.

CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan said the front's defeat was the result of a nationwide surge in favour of the Congress, which was seen as the most effective bulwark against the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The CPI-M state secretariat put forward a similar explanation in a written statement. It also claimed the impact of the efforts of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ant-communist media to unify all anti-communist elements was also discernible in the Kerala verdict.

It added the party would look into the loss of some votes which the party and the front had traditionally received and take corrective measures in the working of the party and the LDF. During the long interval between polling and counting of votes, the state secretariat had called for reports from the party's lower units on possible vote losses.

The Pinarayi Vijayan faction, which controls the organisation, is expected to use these reports to take action against Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan's supporters for anti-party activities.

Findings by the lower committees that the Achuthanandan faction had neutralised party votes or even diverted them to the UDF would provide fresh ammunition for the demand for his resignation as chief minister.

Pinarayi followers had raised the demand at a recent meeting of the party state secretariat.

Achuthanandan, who talked to media persons after the results were declared, was asked whether he would assume responsibility for the election reverses "What for?" he asked.

He denied that the election results were a verdict against the state government.

In response to a pointed question as to who was responsible for the reverses, he said the Politburo and the central committee, which meet in New Delhi this week, would decide that.

On Sunday, the national leaders of the CPI-M and other Left parties met in New Delhi for a preliminary discussion on the outcome of the elections, which had dashed their hopes of playing a major role in the formation of the new government at the Centre.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which is only ten seats short of an absolute majority in the new Lok Sabha, is in a position to form a new government without the help of the Left, which anyway has been crippled by its losses in Kerala and West Bengal.

There are no doubt some common causes for the poor performance of the CPI-M and other Left parties in West Bengal and Kerala.

However, the reverses in Kerala have additional dimensions. They represent failure of Pinarayi Vijayan's policy of forging new alliances with parties of dubious background.

When former chief minister K. Karunakaran walked out of the Congress, Vijayan was keen to enter into an alliance with him. Achuthanandan, who opposed the move, was able to get the national leadership to scuttle it.

On the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, Vijayan struck a deal with People's Democratic Party (PDP) chairman Abdul Naser Ma'dani behind the back of the LDF partners.

Under the agreement, he gifted the CPI's Ponnani to an independent candidate of Ma'dani's choice in exchange for PDP's support in the remaining 19 seats.

The election results show that Vijayan's calculation that PDP help will help weaken the hold of the Muslim League in Malappuram district, has not worked out. The alliance with the PDP apparently alienated other Muslim groups from the party.

Unlike in West Bengal, the CPI-M faced a serious challenge in the state from members thrown out for anti-party activities. They worked against the party's candidates and put up their own candidates in some constituencies.

Achuthanandan is expected to draw attention to these factors and demand a change in the state party leadership. The party's national leadership, which is itself in the dock after the reverses, will not be able to meet his demand.

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