STATE OF PLAY Comment

Keeping the flock together

Last year, 11 political parties, led by the CPI(M), came together in Kerala to fight the election as the Left Democratic Front (LDF). This strategy helped the Left coalition shatter the State’s 40-year record of voting out incumbents. However, since the time of Cabinet formation, the LDF has been facing problems, as its minor constituents are plagued by infighting. Internal strife in the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Indian National League (INL) and the Kerala Congress(B) now appears to have robbed the Pinarayi Cabinet 2.0 of its sheen.

In December 2021, LJD rebels led by State general secretary Sheikh P. Harris and State secretaries Angathil Ajaykumar and V. Rajesh Prem quit the party and are now waiting in the wings to join the CPI(M). Before they quit, they were removed from their posts after they sought the sacking of party State president M.V. Shreyams Kumar for failing to take responsibility for the poor performance of the party in the Assembly elections.

The NCP has been in turmoil since former Congress leader P.C. Chacko joined the party before the Assembly polls and was later elevated to the post of State president. The division of electoral spoils, particularly the recent nomination of a member to the Kerala Public Service Commission, has exposed the rift in the party between Mr. Chacko and Minister A.K. Saseendran. The differences have forced CPI(M) State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan to step in and ask the leaders to resolve their differences and party national president Sharad Pawar to summon them to Mumbai.

In the INL, the factions led by State president A.P. Abdul Wahab and general secretary Kassim Irikkur are at loggerheads over sharing of State boards and corporations. In July, supporters of these warring factions came to blows at a leadership meeting in Kochi and the lone party legislator, Ahammad Devarkovil, who secured a Cabinet berth for his party for the first time, had to be escorted out of the hotel amid the melee. The party’s national president Mohammad Suleman expressed anguish about the future of the party in Kerala and has asked the State leadership to summon the party working committee. Previously these factions had decided to bury the hatchet following talks of rapprochement initiated by Sunni leader Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobacker Musliyar and the intervention of CPI(M) leaders.

In the Kerala Congress(B), a group of rebels protested against the party’s only MLA, K.B. Ganesh Kumar, and elected his sister Usha Mohandas as the new chairperson over a month ago. Subsequently, Mr. Ganesh Kumar said that he was still the official chairman of the party formed by his father, the late R. Balakrishna Pillai.

With no electoral fears until the next Lok Sabha polls in 2024, the Left government is firmly in the saddle. Unlike the United Democratic Front, whose smaller constituents control the Congress, the CPI(M) apparently gives zero voice to its allies on issues. However, the unending bickering in the minor constituents has dented the image of the State government.

Now CPI (M) leaders are pushing for the merger of the Janata Dal (Secular) and the LJD and the amalgamation of the Kerala Congress(B), the Democratic Kerala Congress and Kerala Congress (Skaria Thomas). Knowing fully well that various interest groups have evolved over the years in tune with Kerala’s political diversity, the CPI(M) had decided that four parties would share a maximum of two Cabinet berths between themselves, with each getting a two-and-a-half-year term.

Its State leadership feels that it has to strike a balance even though minor parties are slowly fading into irrelevance.

biju.govind@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 12:35:18 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/keeping-the-flock-together/article38393423.ece