As the third anniversary of Kerala's Left Democratic Front (LDF) government approaches, sectarianism in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is in full swing again and the knives are out.
Neither Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan nor his party appears to be in a mood to celebrate the anniversary, which falls on next Monday.
Much will, of course, depend on the results of the Lok Sabha elections, which are expected on Saturday (March 16), the date set for counting of votes.
Both Achuthanandan and state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had said before the elections that the results would be a verdict on the state administration too.
Early in the campaign, LDF spokesmen asserted the alliance would do better than last time, even though there was little room for improvement since it had made an almost clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004.
Even after polling they continued to exude optimism in public, but the CPI-M's post-poll exercises are a giveaway.
Party committees at various levels have been busy assessing vote losses and fixing responsibility for them.Evidently an effort is on to find scapegoats for likely reverses.
Several party committees have reportedly concluded that Achuthanandan's supporters worked against the party nominees in several constituencies.
With Pinarayi Vijayan's supporters asking for Achuthanandan's scalp, the sectarian feud in the party, which re-surfaced recently, has entered a new stage.
According to media reports, at a meeting of the party's state secretariat on Friday, almost all members demanded Achuthanandan's resignation.
The demand came after Pinarayi Vijayan, in a report, said that Achuthanandan had voiced his personal views on the Lavalin issue at the Cabinet meeting. The members said Achuthanandan had flouted party discipline in giving expression to view different from those of the party.
Ahead of last week's cabinet meeting to consider the Advocate General's advice to turn down the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) request for permission to prosecute Pinarayi Vijayan in the Lavalin case, the CPI-M state committee, at a meeting held in the presence of general secretary Prakash Karat, had asked the government to accept it.
At the cabinet meeting, Achuthanandan reportedly threatened to convey to the Governor his personal view that the CBI's request must be granted.
However, he dropped the idea after NK Premachandran, minister belonging to the Revolutionary Socialist Party, pointed out that such a step would lead to the fall of the government as it meant loss of collective responsibility.
Media reports about the demand for Achuthanandan's resignation in the state committee caused a flurry of activity in New Delhi.
After telephonic contacts with the state leadership, the national office said Achuthanandan's exit was not discussed.
At the instance of the national office, the state party formally denied reports about demands for the chief minister's resignation.
However, it did not contradict reports that the state leadership would complain to the national leadership about Achuthanandan's conduct and demand his ouster from the politburo.
According to published accounts, Labour Minister PK Gurudasan was among those who asked the chief minister to step down if he was not ready to abide by party decisions. MC Josephine was the only Achuthanandan loyalist who did not join the chorus for his resignation.
By cracking the whip the state leadership has been able to isolate Achuthanandan almost totally. But he appears to be ready to fight alone if necessary.
The recrudescence of sectarianism in the state party poses a severe challenge to the national leadership. In earlier interventions in the inner-party feud, it made it clear that it wants Pinarayi Vijayan and Achuthanandan to continue in their respective posts. It is this formula that the state leadership is challenging.
The infighting is likely to intensify further after the election results are announced. If the LDF fares badly, the state leadership is sure to lay the blame at Achuthanandan's door and renew the call for his resignation.
Achuthanandan, on his part, can be expected to argue that the party lost because of the poor image resulting from the state secretary's implication in a corruption case and the electoral understanding with a communal party like the People's Democratic Party of Abdul Naser Ma'dani.
While the LDF constituents cannot question the CPI-M's right to choose its leader, the party cannot effect a change of chief minister without considering their views also.
The CPI, the second largest constituent of the alliance, has made it clear that it does not favour Achuthanandan's exit.