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CPI(M)'s Mode of Punishment

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s punishment meted out to the Kerala chief minister while leaving untouched the state party secretary in the Lavalin-Lok Sabha 2009 election turmoil bodes ill for the future of the party of the working class.

COMMENTARY

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CPI(M)’s Mode of Punishment comrades, was conducted when the allegations first surfaced in the present case
cannot be ignored easily. The party so far
has not responded to the reports that there
K Haridas is no recorded evidence to corroborate the

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s punishment meted out to the Kerala chief minister while leaving untouched the state party secretary in the Lavalin-Lok Sabha 2009 election turmoil bodes ill for the future of the party of the working class.

K Haridas (haridasappu@gmail.com) is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.

T
he central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – (CPI(M)) – has finally decided to d emote Chief Minister of Kerala, V S Achuthanandan (VS) from the politburo while leaving his rival in the group tussle and secretary of the state unit of the party, Pinarayi Vijayan, untouched.

The decision has come as a surprise to those who expected a balancing act from the party vis-a-vis the inner party fight. What prompted the party to take a different path from the past practice of not taking sides in the internal squabbles in the state unit and throw its weight behind the official faction led by Pinarayi Vijayan is apparently the uncompromising stand taken by VS on the multi-crore SNC Lavalin corruption case in which his rival has been charge-sheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Going by the zeal reportedly exhibited by Karat in projecting Vijayan’s innocence in the case, two things clearly stand out. First, the suspicion that the contract with the Canadian company was entered into in 1997 with the permission of the then top leadership of the party now acquires a solid foundation. Second, the present a ction against VS has more to do with his stand on the Lavalin case than the socalled sectarian tendencies in the party’s state unit, a euphemism for the group tussle.

The fact that no enquiry, as stipulated by the constitution of the party and dictated by its own precedents with regard to allegations of corruption involving party

august 15, 2009

claimed approval to the contract either by the party’s state committee or by the c oordination committee of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). The track record of the present LDF regime in bringing eminent lawyers of the Supreme Court at g overnment expense to argue in the state high court against the CBI enquiry and the denial of the party leadership of any request from late E Balanandan, a former member of the politburo and leader of the CITU for a detailed discussion on the Lavalin issue in the party have only added to the cloud of mystery that surrounds the issue.

The cooked up advice of the state’s advocate general to deny permission to prosecute Vijayan and its subsequent approval by the state cabinet in spite of stiff resistance from the chief minister was a glaring example of interference. At least a section of the sympathisers of VS along with the larger public will find it hard to digest the change in the known stand of the party with regard to allegations of corruption. When VS publicly took sides with those who believed that corruption had indeed taken place, it was no wonder that public opinion went in his favour. VS was indeed the convener of the LDF coordination committee at the time of the deal but his claims of having been kept in the dark about the deal have not been responded to with any evidence.

Complicating Matters

For reasons best known to itself, the CPI(M) leadership has opted to complicate m atters instead of asking the indicted

vol xliv no 33

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

COMMENTARY

state party chief to step down and come clean after facing the due process of law. The statement of Karat to the effect that had Vijayan been holding any position in the government, the party would have asked him to quit is hollow, to say the least. For it is a known fact that in the CPI(M) scheme of things, a government run by it is subservient to the party and that its head always enjoys the advantage of influencing party decisions. None of such logical arguments have weighed with the party in the Lavalin case and instead the good old bogey of the “Leninist organisational principle” has been raised to show VS his place.

True, on many occasions in the past, party heavyweights have been shown the door evoking the same principle and the party has emerged unruffled. Organisation, it is reminded and rightly so, is always above the individual and the leaders have been made what they are by the organisation. However, what is obscured is the fact that all organisations are born out of s ociety and that each of them has a constituency of its own among the people and a set of principles. There is no denying that more often than not, these principles are violated by the organisations themselves. However it is precisely the public perception that the CPI(M) is different on this count that has sustained the party base in Kerala.

In the past when senior leaders were e xpelled, the party had succeeded in convincing its followers that the policies or outlooks advocated by them were erroneous. In other words the politics of the issues involved were discussed and the application of the Leninist organisational principle was only a rejoinder. As any o rganisation is committed to its core support base in society, any disciplinary action imposed without any reference to the social and political aspects of the act of “indiscipline” is an act that attempts to posit the party and its supremacy above the people.

Double Standards

One may innocuously ask why Lenin was not remembered and Leninist organisational principles applied when some party stalwarts in the recent past averred that socialism was only an old dream and that in the present times the only option before

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
august 15, 2009

the party-run governments was to build capitalism. When the detractors of VS openly colluded with encroachers of public land at the time of the Munnar eviction or when the official group of the Kerala unit was found on the wrong side of the fence when it came to exposing the land mafiapolitician nexus, nothing was heard of Lenin or Leninist organisational principles. It is the style of reducing everything to the level of organisational matters with no reference to the political or ideological content of the problems faced by the party, which has been followed in the present action against VS as well. This means an end to the “sectarian tendencies” in the state party unit is unlikely.

Causes of Lok Sabha Defeat

The defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in

Kerala has been largely attributed to the

public outbursts of VS against the party

stand that SNC Lavalin case was a politi

cally motivated one. It is difficult to deter

mine the number of people who even

while sharing his view voted for the LDF.

Some might argue that had it not been for

the hope that many had pinned on VS to

correct the party line, the LDF would have

polled still less. It is this section that the

party stands to lose in case VS is eventually

thrown out or he himself opts for an exit.

Strict vigil by the official group and the re

luctance to face disciplinary action before

VS decides on his future course might have

kept the open expressions of discontent to

the minimum.

One conclusion will be inescapable and

it is that many among those had reposed

faith in the party for ideological reasons

may decide not to renew their member

ship, a trend that has been pronounced in

recent years. Such persons might argue

that instead of putting VS in the dock for

the election defeat and then tracing his

antecedents in promoting “groupism” in

the party for the last 15 years or so, the

CPI(M) would have done better if it had

r e-examined its response to the neoliberal

era. Such a step could not have avoided

taking note of the opportunities that the

new era provided to the state govern

ments for entering into contracts with

foreign companies, of how such contracts

breed c orruption, how the edict “times

have changed and living in the old style

vol xliv no 33

is no more conducive for the party’s growth” came to be coined even by the party’s c entral committee members, so on and so forth.

Even if it is admitted that such corrupt practices or at least allegations of such nature are unavoidable, it would have done the party no harm to declare its readiness to undergo the due process of law in a dignified fashion instead of crying hoarse about the CBI. It should be remembered that in the possible scenario of the accused in the case, including Vijayan, being sentenced by the court, allegations of political motivation will then not hold. When it is argued that there is no evidence to prove that Vijayan derived any pecuniary benefit, the CPI(M) will have to face not one but a volley of questions on a host of cases the party had raised in the past.

Undermining Values

With the curious way of meting out punishment to the complainant while letting the accused go scot-free and invoking Lenin’s name to justify all this, the CPI(M) is undermining the very value system of the proletarian classes.

Actions with short-term calculations might temporarily save the organisation. No party, least of all one like the CPI(M) with its declared programme of social transformation, can afford to keep on informing its cadre the details of a contract that the government entered into with a company with the sole aim of convincing its cadre the innocence of its state secretary. It is long since one heard anything from the party regarding the problems of the people. Even as Lavalin dominates the party meetings, the perceived solid base of the party might melt away and it might do so to get dissolved into despondence and eventually to revivalism and maybe even to fanaticism.

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