Tough choices before Polit Bureau on Kerala issues

C. Gouridasan Nair

CPI(M) may seek options that would address the concerns of the opposing sides in the State unit and its larger interests

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: By all indications, it will be a tough call for the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) when it meets in New Delhi on July 4 and 5 to discuss issues relating to its Kerala unit, including the situation arising out of the SNC-Lavalin case.

On Tuesday, two weeks after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet against CPI(M) State secretary and former Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, and eight others, a Special Court in Kochi issued summons to them.

The Polit Bureau would have to consider simultaneously Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s reported plea for the removal of Mr. Vijayan consequent on his being listed as the seventh accused in the case, and the demand of the opposing group for Mr. Achuthanandan’s removal for his refusal to abide by the party’s decisions. Neither will be easy.

A congruent approach is unlikely in the Polit Bureau on either course of action. The Polit Bureau may not also be able to leave the questions open. As such, it is likely to seek options that would address the concerns of both sides and the party’s larger interests.

The Polit Bureau and Central Committee meetings, which ended in New Delhi on Sunday, could not devote to Kerala as much time as they would have liked, on account of the pressing issues in West Bengal and the need to take a holistic view of the setback in the Lok Sabha elections. With everybody in a self-critical mode, there was no possibility of placing the blame on any individual at the national or State level.

That is something the dominant section in the Kerala CPI(M) had hoped for and demanded at the Central Committee meeting. Its argument has been that the problems in the ruling Left Democratic Front and the CPI(M) are mainly on account of the Chief Minister’s refusal to go by the decisions of the party’s State leadership on sensitive issues and his observations on subjects such as the tie-up with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). On his part, the Chief Minister has taken the position that the party cannot go forward with Mr. Vijayan as State secretary. He also wants changes in the composition of the State Secretariat which, he contends, has been constituted on factional lines.

The options before the Polit Bureau are limited given the seeming appeal the Chief Minister enjoys among sections of the people and the strong resistance from the dominant section against removing Mr. Vijayan. The Polit Bureau could be said to have met some of Mr. Achuthanandan’s perceptions about the reasons for the LDF’s poll debacle by opting to arrive at its own assessment of the polls and mentioning both the tie-up with the PDP and the SNC-Lavalin case as two major reasons for the drubbing.

It was not scathing on Mr. Achuthanandan, but noted his inability to take alliance and party together. At its July 4-5 meeting, the Polit Bureau would have to go beyond that. But how far it can, or would, go is hard to guess.

The fact that the Special Court has now chosen to direct the CBI to go deeper into the role played by the Congress leader and former Minister for Electricity, G. Karthikeyan, in the Lavalin deal is seen as a vindication of the Polit Bureau’s stand that the case, as it was originally pursued by the agency, was politically motivated. (Mr. Karthikeyan’s name had been excluded in the charge sheet filed on June 11.)

This is also likely to provide the CPI(M) sufficient reason to stick to the stand that the case is best handled in a court rather than politically. General secretary Prakash Karat’s assertion that there was no corruption in the Lavalin deal might also be indicative of the leadership’s desire for the case to be fought in the courts rather than the political arena.