State of CPM in Kerala

P. Sreekumaran

A court order refusing to discharge Power Minister M M Mani as an accused in a murder case has put the State CPM leadership in a tight spot.   

The matter has acquired a VS versus the CPM state leadership dimension with the former frowning upon Mani’s continuance as a minister following the court order. In fact, VS promptly wrote to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechujry seeking central intervention to sack the Minister.

The continuance of Mani, a staunch Pinarayi Vijayan loyalist, as a minister after the court order, would be unfair and unethical, said VS in his strongly-worded letter. In defence of his stand, Achuthanandan has drawn the attention of the central leadership to the party stance that those accused in serious criminal cases should not hold public offices.

The central leadership, however, seems to be disinclined to concede VS’s request if Yechury’s remark is any indication. The CPM general secretary has put the ball on the court of the state leadership, saying that it is for the latter to take a stand in the matter. He has also said that he is yet to receive the letter from VS!

CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also rushed to the defence of Mani saying that there is no need for him to step down as a minister. There is nothing new in the case against Mani as he fought – and won – the assembly election even while he was an accused in the case. There was no question of comparing the case with that against EP Jayarajan who had to resign as Industries Minister sometime back.  While Jayarajan had to face the allegations after he became a minister, Mani has been facing the charges while contesting the election, Kodiyeri pointed out.

Whatever the construction the CPM state leadership puts on the issue, there is no denying the fact that the issue has come as an acute embarrassment for the LDF Government. What is adding to the anxiety of the CPM leadership is the deafening silence being maintained by allies like the CPM, the NCP and the Congress(S).

Conversely, the issue has come as a god-send for the Opposition United Democratic Front led by the Congress, which itself is riven by internal dissension. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has already demanded the resignation of Mani. In fact, reports have it that the UDF is planning to up the ante by putting pressure on the government through an agitation on the issue as well as on other ‘people-hostile’ policies of the government.   

It may be mentioned that VS’s antipathy to Mani is nothing new. He was unhappy when Mani was made a minister. “It is no big deal when a minister quits and a new minister comes in,” fumed the stalwart when Mani was inducted as a minister following the resignation of EP Jayarajan. Mani, was to start with, a firm VS supporter. But later, he shifted his allegiance to the then Pinarayi-led CPM state leadership.

Incidentally, ‘Mani matter’ is not the only issue on which VS and the CPM state leadership are at odds. VS is also unhappy over the slow pace of investigation against Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) general secretary, Vellappally Natesan  - at present the probe is being conducted by a circle inspector - in the SNDP micro-finance scam.   VS has demanded that a special team led by an SP should probe the case.

Significantly, the case has virtually come to a halt after Natesan held a meeting with Chief Minister Vijayan. It may be recalled that Natesan has since lavished praise on Pinarayi as a strong chief minister. He has also been critical of the BJP with whom he had a brief honeymoon. The utterances against the BJP are being construed as a calculated move to keep the Chief Minister in good humour.

VS has cleverly turned the spotlight on the issue, much to the embarrassment of Chief Minister Vijayan.

The timing of VS’s letter to Yechury is also highly significant. It has come even as the hearing in the SNC Lavalin case in which Pinarayi figures prominently, on January 4. The grapevine is abuzz that, should the Kerala High Court accept the CBI’s plea against the discharge of Vijayan in the case, the CM would be in the same situation in which Mani finds himself in. If the Lavalin case takes such a turn, then VS would certainly seek the resignation of Pinarayi as CM. His tough stance against Mani seems to be only the thin end of the wedge. (IPA)  

Saturday, 31 December, 2016