The reconstruction of Kerala in the aftermath of the August flood and the controversy erupted after the Supreme Court order on Sabarimala are sure to lead to heated debates in the next session of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. Yet a crucial meeting of the ruling party was focused on the future of a party legislator who faces a sexual harassment charge.
Friday’s CPM state committee meeting is keenly watched for any decision on P K Sasi, who has been called out by a district committee member of the DYFI in Palakkad. The CPM state committee is expected to take a decision on a report submitted by an internal investigation committee.
Sasi is in an unenviable position. The scandal is different from previous cases in that he had been accused by a leader of the youth organisation of the party. Both the accused and the accuser are active in their political forums. They are likely to face each other and even work together in future.
Any decision the CPM takes in this case is guaranteed to set a precedent in matters of sexual harassment in the party. Sasi is an MLA and a member of the party’s district secretariat in Palakkad.
The CPM has been waiting for the investigating panel comprising central committee members P K Sreemathi and A K Balan to submit its report. They wound up the investigation only two weeks ago.
Though Sasi was initially kept away from even the party’s district committee meeting, he has returned to the public glare. He has been chosen to lead the party’s march in Shoranur constituency as the local legislator. Though the CPM had decided to rally behind its legislators in their constituencies, the position in Shoranur was a bit unclear. The balance was tilted in Sasi’s favour after state secretariat member Baby John argued against side-lining the MLA before the allegations were proved.
Sasi has polarised the party for obvious reasons. He is arguably the strongest leader in the Palakkad district. He was a staunch loyalist of Pinarayi Vijayan even when Palakkad rallied behind rival leader V S Achuthanandan. He was instrumental in upsetting the dominant faction including M Chandran and N N Krishna Das.
He, however, ruffled a few feathers when he lobbied in the party to let him contest the assembly election from the safer Shoranur seat. He was originally assigned Ottappalam. He purged the district committee of his rivals and squeezed in his men in a bid to consolidate his position within the party. He found little support from non-partisan party leaders such as M B Rajesh.
Sasi managed to portray the opposition against him within the party as a likely instigation for the complaint against him. He even produced his own witnesses before the investigating committee to buttress his claims.
Still the party cannot expect to hush up the scandal, especially because the complainant could approach the police if she is not satisfied by the way the party deal with her plaint. The scandal becomes a potent mixture of morality and factionalism.
The CPM managed to keep the DYFI state conference free of debates related to the allegations by one of its members, who was also a delegate to the conference in Kozhikode. Yet the outgoing office-bearers had a brush-in with M V Govindan, a central committee member of the CPM who is in charge of the youth organisation.
They were irked by the party leadership’s interference in the shortlist of new leaders fixed as per the age limit of 37 years.
When Govindan went to Kozhikode to present the amended shortlist to the young leaders, A N Shamseer and M Swaraj objected to the way the matter was dealt with. Govindan justified the party stand by saying that the DYFI could not be allowed to be led by inexperienced youngsters. His detractors reminded him that the party had approved of the age limit.
The skirmishes between Govindan one the one side and Shamseer and Swaraj on the other are likely to lead to fissures within the party as all of them are members of the party state committee. The DYFI has not gone through such a tumultuous conference in the recent years.