Anatomy of CPI’s Munnar meet boycott

Fallout of differences with CPM
Report by: 
P. Sreekumaran
Thiruvananthapuram
30 Jun 2017

Tension between the CPM and CPI, its principal ally in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government, has flared up once again, causing fresh concern in  LDF circles.
The latest faceoff follows the CPI’s decision to boycott a meeting of political parties convened by Revenue Principal Secretary P H Kurien to discuss the eviction drive in Munnar. The meeting became necessary in the wake of a memorandum submitted jointly by various political parties to the Chief Minister.
Revenue Minister E Chandrashekharan had refused to convene the meeting although he had been asked by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to do so. The minister, who belongs to the CPI, felt such a meeting, even as the eviction operations in Munnar are going apace, would create a wrong impression and give an excuse to the encroachers to continue their illegal activities.
However, ignoring the opposition, the CM directed the Revenue Principal Secretary to call the meeting on July 1.
Evidently unhappy about the CM’s directive, the CPI executive, which met yesterday, asked the Revenue Minister to ignore the meeting.
The fast-paced developments have brought to the fore the differences between the CPI and the CPM on the ongoing drive against evictions in Munnar. While the CPI favours an all-out drive to oust the encroachers, the CPM, especially the Idukki district leadership of the party headed by Power Minister M M Mani, is opposed to it.
The CPI-CPM differences are not limited to the Munnar eviction drive. The CPI has taken strong exception to the ‘brutal’ lathi-charge against the residents of Puthuvype, who are agitating against the location of an LPG storage plant there. No less a person than CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran has strongly criticized the justification of the lathi-charge by the police chief on the ground that militants had infiltrated the ranks of the agitators!
On the other hand, the CPM has maintained a deafening silence on the police attack, with the Chief Minister refusing to concede the CPI’s demand for action against the guilty police officers.  The CM has also ruled out abandonment of the LPG project on the ground that scrapping it would send wrong signals to future investors. The CM’s statement has come as a surprise as the agitators are not seeking abandonment of the storage plant project. All that they are asking for is to shift the plant from Puthuvype, one of the most densely-populated areas, to a less populated area.
The CPI has, however, hardened its stance on the issue, with Kanam turning a scathing attack against the Indian Oil Corporation which selected Puthuvype for their plant. The authorities who took the decision should have their heads examined, Kanam said, adding that no development ignoring the fears and concerns of the people should take place.
The CPI’s opposition has had a partial effect as the Government has asked IOC to suspend their work till the experts committee, set up by the Government, submitted its report on whether the IOC has violated environmental rules in going ahead with the project.
The people of Puthuvype are said to be skeptical, however, about the committee report. They feel the committee is unlikely to come out with a report against the location of the plant in Puthuvype. Their reasoning: as the CM has openly said that all necessary safety measures have been taken and there is no cause for concern, the committee would not have the nerve to prepare an adverse report.
As of now, an uneasy truce prevails. But the surface calm can be shattered any time with tension running high in the area. One thing is for sure: if the report goes against their wishes, the residents of Puthuvype would revive their agitation with renewed vigour. And it is not as if they lack support. As many as 20 mass organizations have lent their full support to their agitation. Whatever the outcome, Puthuvype has lost its obscurity status, and hogged the headlines. (IPA)