Kerala: State of two main left parties

P. Sreekumaran

Timing is of utmost importance in politics. If your sense of time fails you, it could exact a heavy political cost.
The ruling CPI(M) finds itself in an extremely difficult situation on the Thomas Chandy issue due to  its failure to act in time. What makes it all the more embarrassing for the party is the fact that it had a golden chance to redeem itself, but failed to do so because of its poor sense of timing.
The opportunity was provided by Transport Minister Thomas Chandy, who is facing serious allegations of land encroachment and violation of rules, himself. The Minister used the southern leg of the LDF’s Jana Jagratha Yatra led by CPI State Secretary, Kanam Rajendran, to challenge the Opposition to prove the charge of him having violated the Kerala Land Acquisition Act in constructing Lake Palace resort owned by him and other legal infractions. The investigation team won’t be able to raise even the little finger against him, boasted the Minister in the presence of Kanam.
Of course, Kanam countered him by saying that the Yatra was not meant to challenge anyone or prove a point. Undeterred by Kanam’s snub, Chandy told press persons that he would reclaim land again, if necessary.
This was something unheard of in the annals of Kerala’s political history: a minister, who is under a cloud, openly thumbing his nose at the rule of law. True, the  ministerial act of arrogance and defiance of law drew a  rebuke from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself who summoned Chandy to his room and gave him  a piece of his mind.
But a mere Chief Ministerial censure is not enough as the issue warranted stringent action. Here was a golden opportunity to show the arrogant minister the door. But, surprisingly, the CM limited himself to a mere verbal dressing down. This has of course set tongue wagging: the CM is afraid of acting against Chandy because there is something which prevents him from doing so.      
Not surprisingly, the State CPI(M) leadership has defended the delay in taking any action on the report submitted by Alappuzha district collector who has detailed instances of serious legal violations by the Minister. Any hasty action would incite the charge of contempt of court as there are some cases against Chandy pending in the court. The argument is not entirely correct. True, there is a case against Chandy for encroaching on the Marthandam Canal in blatant violation of rules. But only one case is there. Nothing prevents the Government from taking action on other violations by the Minister. The CM and the CPI(M) state leadership have taken refuge behind the plea – a specious one at that – that the Government has sought legal opinion in the matter and until it gets the advice, no action can be taken!
The CPI(M)’s defence of the indefensible has not gone down well with the general public. The growing popular perception is that the CPI(M) has something to hide and is scared of the Minister, who has something up his sleeve against the Government.
The CPI(M)’s wishy-washy stance is in glaring contrast to the principled and firm stand taken by the CPI in the matter. Revenue Minister Chandrashekharan had promptly forwarded the Alappuzha Collector’s report to the CM recommending immediate action against the Transport Minister. His reasoning: the collector’s report mentions serious leviolations of law by Chandy which warrant immediate action.
But the CPI(M) and the CM ignored the Revene Minister’s advice and opted to go by the Revenue Secretary’s suggestion that it take legal advice in the matter. The move incurred the wrath of State CPI secretary Kanam Rajendran who openly said that the Revenue Secretary was not above the Minister.  The entire episode has, udoubtedly, left a trail of bitterness.
But, to its credit, the CPI has decided against any extreme action in the matter although it has enough reasons to harden its stance. The party will now take up the Chandy issue at the LDF coordination meeting scheduled to be held soon.    
Meanwhile, Thomas Chandy again raided a hornet’s nest by accusing CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy of corruption! What incurred the Minister’s wrath was Reddy’s demand that the LDF Government act against the minister who has clearly misused his authority and office. Here again, the CPI leadership has counselled restraint.
Needless to say, the CPI stands to gain enormously from the principled stand it has taken on the issue. Conversely, the CPI(M)’s deafening silence and delaying tactics could exact a heavy political cost from the party, taking the shine off the various people-friendly steps the Government has initiated.  (IPA)

Thursday, 9 November, 2017