Why was CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran forever at loggerheads with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan? The question that has puzzled the political circles in Thiruvananthapuram for sometime was put to the man himself.
"There is nothing to read between the lines. We are going by our political line. There is nothing that goes against the Left-wing politics or the Left Democratic Front manifesto," Rajendran said, implying his party's staunch stand within the Left camp.
Bigger ally CPM, however, accuses the CPI of playing to the tune of the BJP. Both positions are clearly conflicting.
The rift between the two communist parties has become an irritant for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, just like his predecessor V.S. Achuthanandan was haunted by factionalism within the CPM.
The CPI state secretary is at the center of all political storms in Kerala. Rajendran has not made it any easier for Pinarayi with his constant admonitions. Moderate voices from both the parties, including Rajendran's predecessor Panniyan Raveendran and CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, have tried to iron out differences.
In fact, Raveendran was so eager to respond to Balakrishnan's overtures that he rushed to the AKG center at the latter's invite. The two leaders talked it out for more than an hour and the murky affair related to the Kerala Law Academy Law College was put on the back burner.
But Rajendran was not very keen on peace. He squared up to the chief minister again on the issue related to the Right to Information Act. His party colleagues were not that inimical to the chief minister. A former assistant secretary hosted Pinarayi Vijayan in Kannur but Rajendran was not amused.
The rift between the leaders is slowly finding its way to the cadres and affiliated organizations. The DYFI Kannur district president likened the CPI to an infertile cow. A CPI-affiliated trade unionist mocked finance minister T.M. Thomas Isaac of idiocy. The student wings of both the CPM and the CPI are always on each other's throat.
Evidently, Kerala has a long way to go before the Left is united, a key objective set by the latest CPM party congress.
One of the CPM secretariat members had a curious observation: "Maoism is Left-wing deviation for us. The CPI, on the other hand is deviating towards the right. These two deviations can never come together, except when they are targeting us." The remark assumes significant in the wake of Rajendran's comments against the LDF government for its handling of the encounter deaths of two Maoists in the Nilambur forest.
The CPM plays down the criticism as the smaller party's attempts to stay relevant. The CPI is feeble. The party has a single Lok Sabha member from the entire country, only because it piggybacks on the CPM in Kerala.
CPM leaders lambast the CPI for its comments against the Kerala government at a time when the Left-wing and secular parties are coming together to resist the onslaught of the BJP.
The CPM is particularly peeved at the CPI's handling of the student agitation at the Law Academy. Rajendran's stand against the college management is being mocked by his detractors, who point to his involvement with the college as a former legislator. Rajendran, however, does not want to leave the popular struggle for the BJP to score brownie points.
CPI leaders say they would be playing to the tune of the BJP if they just let the party hijack the student movement. BJP leader V. Muraleedharan has been active in the struggle with an eye on the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, which is usually assigned to the CPI by the LDF.
The root of the problem is the CPI's distrust of Pinarayi. The party has been sympathetic to Achuthanandan when he was the chief minister but Pinarayi is treated differently. Any CPI meeting is ultimately used to point a finger at Pinarayi, pretty much the same way the CPM huddles targeted Achuthanandan.
The distrust was evident when the CPI prodded its minister, in charge of the revenue department, to order the demolition of the Law Academy gate even after the chief minister ruled out any action on alleged land grab.
Pinarayi is a regular punching bag in articles published on CPI mouthpiece Janayugam. Pinarayi has not taken it lightly. He has reminded Rajendran that he knew very well how to respond to those barbs.
The CPI keeps on raising allegations and the CPM royally ignores them all. The CPM doubts if the CPI national leadership could rein in the state unit. The CPI, however, says the party does not need frequent hand holding from Delhi as the CPM does.
The allegations against the Law Academy are sure to be raised when the Legislative Assembly begins its session. Will the chief minister and the revenue minister be ready with the same answers or will they keep on embarrassing their own government?
The opposition can also expect a lift from veteran communist Achuthanandan, who has already gone public with his stand against the college management.