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Last Updated Saturday November 18 2017 03:42 PM IST

Left unity is in tatters in the last bastion

Sujith Nair
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Pinarayi Vijayan, Kanam Rajendran Pinarayi Vijayan, Kanam Rajendran

CPI’s national leaders have been harping on a broad alliance of Left and democratic parties to resist the advance of the BJP. The other prominent communist party has not been kind on the junior partner though. The CPM’s Kerala unit is not amused by CPI state leaders’ diverging position in a variety of issues ranging from encroachments in Munnar to a tie-up with the Kerala Congress in Kottayam.

CPM honchos attending the party’s state secretariat wanted to know why was the CPI lamenting over the Congress’s loss of the post of the Kottayam district panchayat president. CPM mouthpiece ‘Deshabhimani’ piled the pressure with a stinging editorial targeted at the CPI.

The CPM is ready to work with Kerala Congress leader K.M. Mani but the party cannot come to terms with its partner in the ruling alliance.

Hardly a year into the Left Democratic Front rule in Kerala, the Left unity is at the crossroads. Both the CPM and the CPI had proclaimed the importance of a united Left in party meetings in Jalandhar and Bhatinda but the resolve seems to be waning in the party’s remaining stronghold.

The CPI never misses a chance to poke the CPM even as they remain part of the government in Kerala. The rift in the ruling alliance assumes all the more significance at a time when the opposition coalition is going through a transformation.

After herding Kerala Congress out of the United Democratic Front, K.M. Mani has upped the ante in his fight against the Congress. Is Mani drifting towards the CPM-led front? Or is the CPI being forced to work with the Congress? Curious questions are yet to be answered.

In case the CPI decides to leave the LDF, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan would find his government hanging in the balance with the support of just 72 legislators, the same number with which his predecessor Oommen Chandy had struggled for five years.

Even if the 19 CPI MLAs pull their support to the government, Vijayan will still have a razor-thin majority but his reign may not be as smooth as he wants to be.

The CPM’s overtures to Mani could not have come at a more opportune time. The party castigated its junior partner in the state committee meeting and state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan even expressed doubts about CPI national leaders’ affinity towards the Congress.

The CPM helped Mani’s party to wrest control of the Kottayam district panchayat at the expense of the Congress and asked the suspicious CPI leaders whey were they worried about the Congress. The six MLAs of the Kerala Congress may come handy for the ruling dispensation.

The tributes paid to Mani in the Legislative Assembly in March on his 50th anniversary as an MLA may not have been just a courtesy. After all, Shakdher & Kaul has not recommended it in their authoritative book on parliamentary practices and procedures. Still the chief minister took the initiative to honor the former minister whom his party had hounded relentlessly during the UDF government’s tenure.

The CPM even invited Mani to their state headquarters to attend a seminar on center-state relations.

The signals were not lost on Mani, who found himself isolated by his former partners. Not a single member of the UDF, except C.P. John, visited Mani when he sat in protest in front of the state secretariat to press the government not to scrap the Karunya scheme.

The Congress succeeded to gloss over its differences with the Muslim League and put up a united front in the Lok Sabha byelection in Malappuram but the party lost a key post in Kottayam thanks to the tussle with the Kerala Congress.

Malappuram and Kottayam districts had remained UDF bastions even when the front was decimated elsewhere in the state in the assembly election last year. The CPM has rightly evaluated that any foray into the Christian-dominated Kottayam hinges on the fissures in the Congress-Kerala Congress alliance. The strategy has borne fruit in the election of the district panchayat president.

Meanwhile, the CPM-CPI relations have hit rock bottom. Last week, suspected CPM workers ransacked the CPI’s mandalam committee office at Mukhathala in Kollam district, where the CPI refuses to play second fiddle to the bigger party.

The CPI has been provoking the CPM in any way it can. The party has thrown open its gate to any CPM dissident who wants to join. The trend has been evident in Kozhikode, Thrissur and Kollam districts. The party’s lower units are particularly severe in criticizing the CPM and the government it leads.

The CPI can’t live with a dispensation that has identified with Pinarayi Vijayan yet its leaders deny any speculation of an exit from the LDF.

Even CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan tried to put up a façade of unity. He claimed that the two parties have ironed out all differences, only to be woken up by editorials in ‘Deshabhimani’ and CPI mouthpiece ‘Janayugam’ throwing mud at each other.

The slanging match can only intensify when both parties prepare for their conferences by the end of the year. Even Balakrishnan and his counterpart in the CPI, Kanam Rajendran, may not be able salvage the situation if the developments snowball into a full-blown fight.

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