Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Kanam Rajendran said that he could not be sure that his party would not work with the Congress. There was not a single party in Kerala that has not allied with the Congress at one point, he told Manorama Online.
Rajendran refused to back down from his position that has put his party in a path of confrontation with bigger ally Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The CPM is of the view that the Thomas Chandy affair has not dented the Left Democratic Front government’s image. What prompts the CPI to take another stand?
May be because of the differences in approaching an issue. The Chandy issue was raised in the Legislative Assembly on August 17. He resigned after 90 days. The LDF came under harsh criticism in the meantime. The Jana Jagratha Yathra was planned against the BJP and the RSS. Even as we proceeded with the march, the Chandy affair dominated it. His speech at Kuttanad aggravated the problem. The chief minister was entrusted to take an appropriate decision on the matter in accordance with the legal advice because all parties in the LDF, except the NCP, wanted a decision on it.
But the division bench of the Kerala High Court made stinging remarks on the matter. That was beyond any discussions and decisions. We had made CPI’s decision known at the LDF meeting. We pointed out the unconstitutionality of a minister suing the cabinet and the chief secretary. The division bench made strong observations. Those were part of the judgment. A minister has sued another minister. It was a violation of the principle of collective responsibility. That remark made us push for an urgent decision making.
Boycotting the cabinet meeting goes against the coalition courtesies, does it?
A coalition has to be courteous. But how do you define it? The CPI refused to share a platform with a minister who had sued another minister, only because it respected rule of law, judiciary and democracy.
Yet Thomas Chandy was still a minister. He was entitled to attend the cabinet meeting. The CPI could have at least informed the CPM that it wanted to postpone meeting or it would not be attending the meeting.
I had called up (CPM state secretary) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan to say that it was a shame that Thomas Chandy was still attending the cabinet meeting. Ministers belonging to our party huddle together at the parliamentary party leader's office before attending the cabinet meeting. Chandy dared at 8:55 am that he would attend the meeting. That is when we realized that he was never asked not to attend the meeting. That is when we decided we did not have to attend the meeting with the minister who had taken an unconstitutional stand. That was not any kind of violation of collective responsibility. It would have been more serious if we went their and boycotted the meeting. Once a decision is taken, you have to stand by it. That is collective responsibility. We could have differing opinions but once a decision has been taken by the cabinet, that is final.
Land encroachment is a widespread problem. The CPI has been in charge of the revenue department whenever the LDF came to power. Don't you think the party has a responsibility?
You can't say that. Whoever violates the law, even if it is a people's representative or a minister, they are all subject to the same law. The decisions we had taken over the past one year on issues related to pattas in the agricultural sector had been lauded by all. The Kerala government has a task of implementing law. The chief minister and the revenue minister had told the assembly what the government's stand was, giving priority to the problems of settlers and evicting large-scale squatters. We will not compromise this stand. The minor cases have to taken up one by one. This is LDF's stand.
The CPI has recommended action against K E Ismail alleging that his statements were against the party stand. Was it so controversial?
Our executive took a decision on the Thomas Chandy affair on November 10, that his resignation was inevitable. We conveyed that decision in the LDF meeting on November 12. K E Ismail had attended that meeting. When the issue was at its height, Ismail spoke out as if there was a rift in the CPI. He has admitted that he erred. We have decided to convey our displeasure to the national executive.
You said you do not have any objection to A K Saseendran returning as a minister. If Thomas Chandy is exonerated, will you allow him to return as well?
It is up to the NCP to choose its minister. I can't tell you now if we would support Thomas Chandy's return to the cabinet. I do not think Chandy would be interested anymore.
Don't you think the revenue department has to strengthen its activities?
We have to get things going, whoever is involved. If we are found to be the violators, there should be actions against us. There was an allegation against our office in Cherthala. If you look into it, you will see it was a lapse from the part of the ombudsman.
The CPI has only 5 percent vote share in Kerala yet the party has 19 MLAs. CPM leaders say you survive on their support. How do you counter this?
We had 9 per cent votes in 1965. How could it be 5 per cent now. Those figures are not correct. When was the CPM able to form a government without support from the CPI? Look at history. We pulled our support to the EMS government in 1967 as we could not agree on certain things. We did not just walk away. We were in power for the next 10 years when the so-called strong people remained outsiders. They could not return to power on their own. They would not have made such boastful claims had they learned history.
CPI's occasional criticism against the government may be hurting the LDF's image.
The CPM and the CPI always work together. We take decisions together and implement them together. The CPI has to speak out when the CPM deviates from leftist views in some issues.
Do you see any chance of the CPM and the CPI merging?
The CPI wants all communist parties in India to work together.
The CPI-CPM feud is intensifying. Does the CPI has any plans to ally with Congress and switch to the United Democratic Front?
You can't say anything in politics. Which party in Kerala has not allied with the Congress? None. Who supported the UPA government (at the center). We did not seek out any ministerial berth. The CPM chose to get the speaker's post. I cannot tell you now that we would never ally with the Congress. I can only tell you that we would never ally with the RSS and the BJP.
The BJP and the RSS are gaining strength in India and even in Kerala. Do you think the LDF has failed to resist the advance?
Only the LDF can resist the BJP and the RSS. I don't think that their advances reflect a failure of the Left. There was a time when the BJP had only two MPs. The Left was not blooming then. The Left's influence was limited even then. The BJP has had advanced democratically but their acts are undemocratic. A party's graph won't always on the rise. There has to be ascents and descents.
Why did a communist-led government treated a rich minister kindly, when it refused to show the same leniency to E P Jayarajan or A K Saseendran?
Politics has changed of late. Look at the number of corporate leaders entering the Rajya Sabha. The parliament now belongs to crorepatis. The general trend may be reflecting in Kerala as well. You cannot find fault with it.
But why should that happen in a state ruled by communists?
Communists are not against money. We are not saying anything against industries. We are not against anyone investing in businesses. You cannot speak against private property in a democratic country. Everything should be legal. That's all.