CPI central secretariat member Pannyan Raveendran said his comrade K E Ismail has not treated the party well. The senior comrade’s words carry weight as he is without parallels in the party’s Kerala unit.
Pannyan gave way to Kanam Rajendran as the party’s state secretary in the party conference in Kottayam. Kanam was inducted to the party’s central secretariat only recently.
Pannyan talks about the latest controversies plaguing the party and the government in which it is a part.
The CPI leadership has come down heavily on senior leader K E Ismail for speaking against the party decision to boycott a cabinet meeting. Has the CPI become a party intolerant of criticism?
That is not intolerance. The party decision was applauded by the people of Kerala. Ismail spoke in such a way as to tarnish it, we feel. The Alappuzha district collector was put on the job by the revenue minister to probe Thomas Chandy's encroachments and submit a report.
If Chandy goes to the court against that report and receives a favorable ruling, can the revenue minister continue in the cabinet? If the court ruling is against him, Chandy could not continue. The court ruled against Chandy. The CPI took a stand, rightfully, that its ministers will not sit with Chandy in a cabinet meeting. Chandy had to quit because of that. Ismail's comment only eclipsed the party’s success in the issue. He was not just in his treatment of the party. That is what the party pointed out.
Were you punishing him when you relieved him of his duties as the party representative in the LDF?
That was a coincidence. The CPI has a quota of three representatives in the LDF meeting. Still four leaders were attending the meeting of late - party secretary Kanam Rajendran, legislative party leader E Chandrasekharan and a member of the central body. I am senior to Ismail as a national leader. That’s how the executive decided on me.
Does that mean that the real punitive action is yet to come?
The state leadership cannot take any action against a national executive member. By this, I am not predicting that there will be an action.
Will the state leadership ask the central leadership to take to task Ismail for tainting the party's stand?
There has not been any recommendation. Naturally, an important discussion in the state has to be conveyed to the central leadership.
Two groups seem to be forming in the CPI. Is the move against Ismail part of a plan to preempt the strengthening of one of those groups ahead of the party conference.
There may be differences of opinions within the party. Party members may harbor ambitions at the time of party elections. All these things happen in all parties all the time. That does not mean the CPI has two groups. Our party has gone through a tragic split in 1964. Our leaders are well aware of it.
Ismail's controversial comment was reported prominently by 'Deshabhimani'. Is the CPM trying to create a rift in the CPI?
Ismail is one of the most experienced leaders of the CPI. I do not think the CPM is childish enough to think that they could tempt such a leader out of the party. Ismail will not allow any such move. The 'Deshabhimani' might have considered his comment beneficial to the CPM in the Thomas Chandy issue.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan termed the CPI's boycott of the cabinet meeting as 'immature'. Is the CPI leadership immature?
When Thomas Chandy challenged the government in a public meeting at Kuttanad, Kanam Rajendran could have replied to him in the same coin. Kanam showed extreme maturity as expected from a person leading the LDF. The CPI leadership is efficient and far-sighted. If someone deviates from the path of truth, we will take measures to correct him. There is no compromise.
Were there enough consultations before deciding to boycott the cabinet meeting?
The executive meeting had given the CPI leadership total mandate to ensure the resignation of Thomas Chandy. The leadership comprises the state secretary and two assistant secretaries. Ismail was also informed of the decision. The CPI secretary was also talking to the CPM secretary. We don't have to discuss all that in the open. There is no need for a post-mortem. Chandy has resigned.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the CPI leaders are always at loggerheads. Does the CPI want Pinarayi to change his style of functioning?
He is a very experienced leader. Leaders’ styles are hardly the issue here. The discussions are ultimately between the parties. At the same time, leaders have a duty to solve problems when they arise.
The CPI and the CPM had decided to hold frequent bilateral talks. Why did that not happen?
There may be many reasons for that. We can solve such communication problems because we are in good terms.
There are speculations that the CPM may chuck the CPI and go with K M Mani.
We know what happened in Bengal. The CPM was the largest party there. Erroneous decisions have brought the Left Front to its current predicament. The entire country is looking up to the CPI-CPM alliance. When someone derides that alliance by saying that a particular side will be weakened if they go apart, it shows political immaturity.
The CPM is a politically conscious party. They know well the consequences of going with opportunists for temporary gains.