HYDERABAD: With the 22nd congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) beginning at Hyderabad on April 18, all eyes in the political circles in the country are on the Kerala unit of the party.
Political observers across the country will be keenly watching whether the state unit will soften its stand on an electoral alliance with Congress in the wake of the drubbing the party has suffered in Tripura.
The state had almost en bloc voted against the pro-Congress line that party general secretary, Sitaram Yechury propounded in an alternate document presented at the central committee meeting held at Kolkata in January. That was before the Assembly elections in Tripura.
The Yechury camp is hoping that some of the delegates who opposed any kind of electoral adjustments with the Congress may change their stand after the party was totally decimated in Tripura.
However, the Tripura fiasco has not influenced the thinking in the Kerala unit. Party veteran V S Achuthanandan, who was the only leader to support the Yechury line, still remains the loner.
The stand he reiterated before boarding the flight to Hyderabad was firmly rejected by party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. While the former chief minister asserted the need for unity of all secular parties against the Bharatiya Janata Party, Kodiyeri said that Congress could not be included among the secular parties as it was following a soft Hindutva line.
He said that the saffron party could be defeated without an alliance with the Congress. This is the firm line that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who holds an iron grip over the party, has taken. Barring a few Achuthanandan supporters, all the 175 delegates from the state are expected to support this line.
Pinarayi has been opposing any truck with Congress saying that an electoral alliance with the party would lack credibility. He said that the CPM cannot take the Congress into its side in its fight against the BJP. He prefers a synergy between regional parties to take on the saffron party in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The two divergent views may come to clash at the party congress with the Yechury camp gearing up for another show of strength. Reports from Hyderabad said that he will present his alternate political line, which was defeated by a 55-31 vote at the central committee.
A section in the party led by former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar is trying to avoid contest at the party’s triennial meet. Sources said that he has been trying to evolve a consensus by holding talks with leaders of both camps.
A senior leader in Kerala said that that a consensus was not difficult as there were no differences in the party over the “pooling” of anti-BJP votes for defeating the saffron party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The difference is more of nuance that can be sorted out, said the leader who did not want to be identified.
However, political observers do not think it will be that easy since the divergent views in the party are part of the personality clash between Yechury and former party chief, Prakash Karat, who is determined to unseat the former from the helm of the party.
He may, therefore, resist any attempt to dilute his line approved by the party’s central committee at the congress. Karat, who has ensured the total backing of the Kerala unit, is trying to rally the Tripura unit behind him. The Tripura unit, which had backed him at the central committee, showed signs of skulking after the Assembly poll.
The Karat move to field the former Tripura chief minister against Yechury is seen as part of this game plan. However, a section in the party has already come out against the projection of Sarkar, saying that it would send a wrong signal to the cadres in his state, who are struggling to defend the attacks unleashed by the BJP against them following the electoral loss.
A senior leader said it would be “demoralising” for the cadre if he leaves for Delhi when they are in trouble. He also feels that many may prefer a second term for Yechury as the party has always given multiple terms to its general secretaries.
The entire West Bengal contingent is likely to support Yechury as they had fully backed his line at the central committee. However, political observers believe that the stand that the Kerala unit will take will be crucial in deciding his fate.
The party strong man in the state has been nursing a grudge against Yechury as he openly supported his political bête noir when had trying times in the party over the SNC Lavalin case. Though Pinarayi has completely decimated the Achuthanandan faction, he is not ready to forgive Yechury for the support he lent to him.
Political observers like N P Chekutty feel that the party may head to a split if the power struggle is not resolved amicably. “Yechury is a fighter. He will not easily give in to his detractors. I will not be surprised if he walks out of the party if he loses his battle at the congress,” he added.
The 22nd party congress will, therefore, be one of the most crucial and keenly-watched political meets in the history of the CPM.
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