V.S. Achuthanandan may be experiencing a sense of déjà vu as he prepares for the CPM politburo and central committee meetings scheduled to be held in Thiruvananthapuram in the first week of the year. The veteran leader was subjected to the first disciplinary action by his party half a century earlier when he was branded a Chinese agent and imprisoned in the Poojappura central jail in the city along with many of his comrades.
Those were difficult times for the communists. India was fighting the Chinese aggression on the borders and the communists painted themselves to a corner with their ideological rigidity. Achuthanandan wanted the party leaders to remove the stigma by donating blood to the jawans. His idea was dismissed and he was punished for party indiscipline.
Five decades down the line, the founding member of the CPM is staring at another disciplinary action. The politburo commission that had looked into allegations against Achuthanandan has reserved the judgement to the party forums meeting in Thiruvananthapuram. When all the party leaders descend on Thiruvananthapuram, Achuthanandan can expect retribution for boycotting the latest state conference held in Alappuzha.
Achuthanandan, however, seems unperturbed. He was seen enjoying his usual evening stroll in the University Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram after joining hands with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in a human-chain protest last week. He has showed no signs of easing his fight against the two powerful leaders. He believes they are waiting for a chance to get even with him.
The veteran leader may have rubbed the party leadership the wrong way by raising certain political issues but he was considered as an organizational issue to be dealt with by the party.
Achuthanandan’s predicament presents a curious comparison with that of another former chief minister, Oommen Chandy. After helping the CPM-led Left Democratic Front to roar back to power in the state, Achuthanandan demanded membership in the party state secretariat and the post of the LDF convener with cabinet rank. Chandy, however, refused to shepherd the United Democratic Front after the rout in the assembly election.
Chandy even wants himself to be excluded from the political affairs committee of the Congress. The Congress leader is so peeved with the party leadership that he almost threatened to withdraw from it, while Achuthanandan is fighting his party for sidelining him.
If Chandy is locking horns with the national leadership of his party, Achuthanandan’s only hope is in CPM’s national leaders. He knows that any charge sheet prepared by the politburo and central committee will come with a rider that takes into consideration his historic role in the party. Sitaram Yechury and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan have replaced Prakash Karat and Pinarayi Vijayan at the helm of the party in the national and state level since the commission was appointed to look into acts of insubordination by Achuthanandan.
This change of guard is significant. Yechury and Balakrishnan are more sympathetic to Achuthanandan. Balakrishnan even paid a courtesy call to the veteran two weeks ago. However, Achuthanandan is no ageing leader hoping for a pardon. He would not be a happy man even if the party lets him off the hook considering his age and contributions to the organization. He needs to be accommodated in a party forum. He has been made a special invitee in the central committee but that is no alternative for an official post in a rigid cadre party.
What Achuthanandan is looking for is to return to the state secretariat through the state committee. He wants a day in the party forum that had accused him of being anti-party.
The crucial party meetings in Thiruvananthapuram will provide the stage for a clash between Achuthanandan’s insistence on being taken back into the top forum in the state and the other leaders’ reluctance to let him in. The party leadership may be softer on E P Jayarajan for letting the party down with appointing his relative to an official post. Jayarajan may even question the presence of a murder accused in the cabinet that he was forced to leave.
P.K. Sreemathi, who had to be contended with the post of treasurer of the All India Democratic Women’s Association due to the controversial appointment of her son, may also have an axe to grind.
Achuthanandan, however, has in mind another issue that could put the chief minister under pressure. Even as he attends the central committee meeting in Thiruvananthapuram, the leader’s eyes would be on the High Court of Kerala, which is to consider from January 4 to 12 the CBI’s petition for a trial in the Lavalin case.