A CPM leader in Kerala hit headlines when he alleged that CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran was eying the post of the chief minister. He made the comments while lashing out against the partner party in the CPM district convention in Pathanamthitta.
Why would an office-bearer of the CPM express that an apprehension? The answer lies within the CPI legislative party. Rajendran has the support of 19 party legislators, just three members short of the main opposition party.
CPI had never had it so good in the assembly in recent years. It cannot guarantee such a show in the coming years.
Why would the party want to keep those 19 members as a kind of fixed deposit for the bigger communist party? Why can’t they use the strength to usher in a party leader to the office of the chief minister?
The CPM and CPI circles are already abuzz with the possibility, which eventually found its way to the public space with the outburst in Pathanamthitta.
The CPI could never expect to nominate a chief minister if it continues with the Left Democratic Front. The CPM will always remain numero uno in the front.
Whenever CPI leaders became chief ministers - C Achutha Menon and P K Vasudevan Nair - the party was aligned with the Congress. Rajendran cannot be blamed for harboring a secret wish to be the party’s third chief minister.
The plan has a long way to take off. Even if the CPI joins the opposition United Democratic Front, the numbers do not add up to a simple majority. And the Congress has no reason to give away the chief minister’s post to the CPI. Yet anything can happen in the maneuvers for an alternative government.
The new year could well belong to such dramatic maneuvers. The Lok Sabha election is scheduled only a year after, unless prime minister Narendra Modi has other ideas. Still the run-up to the election will make this year crucial, particularly when the CPM and the CPI go through their organizational election.
Janata Dal to jump?
The political polarization in Kerala is sure to change in more ways. The Janata Dal (U) has dropped hints of a shift of allegiance in the early days of the new year. The party made an electoral understanding with the CPM to a rural bank in Vatakara, a bastion of the smaller party.
Yet not all leaders are comfortable with the dilly dallying with the two fronts. K P Mohanan himself is worried about getting back his home turf Koothuparamba if the party allies with the CPM.
Party supremo M P Veerendra Kumar, however, puts it in a pragmatic way. The party has no existence otherwise. The party has only less than 90 representatives in the local bodies in Kerala, a worrying dip from the 300 mark in its heydays. For the first time the party that claims to be the real socialists is without representation in the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
Veerendra Kumar has convened a top-level meeting of the party in Thiruvananthapuram on January 11 and 12. He is expected to prevail upon his party men that there is no point in sticking to the Congress.
Another party on the fence is K M Mani’s Kerala Congress. The former Congress ally’s future may not be clear until the CPM and the CPI do away with their party conferences in April. The Left camaraderie at the national level may be weakened if the CPI argues in favor of working with the Congress and the CPM takes a differing view. That could give the CPM in Kerala to drop the CPI as an alliance partner in favor of Mani. That could at least gain the party the support from a dominant faction of the Kerala Congress.
On the other hand, Mani will find it difficult to access the LDF if the state leadership is persuaded by the national leaders not to take up anything that could create a rift in the Left camp.
The UDF may see that as a right time to step up its efforts to win back Mani. The selection of the new Congress chief in Kerala may be crucial in the negotiations to come.
BDJS in a bind
A section of the Congress has been lobbying to cozy up to the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a BJP ally in Kerala. They want the party to fill the void that may be created by a departure of the Janata Dal (U).
The BDJS leadership is an unhappy lot as the BJP has turned a blind eye towards their demands for the fishes and loaves of office even after the Gujarat assembly election. They have only the UDF to go to since the CPM has already made it clear that Vellappally Natesan and son could not expect a berth in the LDF.
Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Kanam Rajendran are expected to retain their leadership of their respective parties. Congress president M M Hassan is on a shaky wicket, especially after the recent controversy triggered by his comments.
What about Kummanam Rajasekharan? Will he continue as the BJP state president for want of a better alternative? That is still a suspense.