Karat’s leadership faces challenges

via PNS | New Delhi published on July 13, 2009

The decision to remove Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan from the party’s highest decision-making body — Politburo — could prove costly for the CPM in the coming days. The two-day long central committee meeting which ended here on Sunday was a house divided as it sharply questioned the decisions of its general secretary Prakash Karat.

The diction to act against Achuthanandan and protecting Vijayan, endorsed by Karat, was vehemently objected to by none other than Karat’s close associate Sitaram Yechury, who along with seven other Politburo members, including Brinda Karat, argued for penalising Vijayan. This is for the first time after 1996 that a general secretary’s decision was opposed in the CPM.

In 1996, the then general secretary Harkishen Surjeet was vetoed by members for proposing Jyoti Basu for Prime Minister’s post. The veto move was led by Karat and it turned out to be source of a great ego clash between him and Somnath Chatterjee, say several party insiders.

In the past, Yechury has inevitably deputed to handle the media. But this time, his absence was conspicuous. The CPM has literally put a gag order on all its members to interact with the media. Another notable fact was Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar’s decision to keep away from meet on the second day on Sunday. Sarkar had sharply questioned Karat’s stand on the Lavalin corruption case on the first day of the meeting and demanded the expulsion of Vijayan from the party posts.

“We had taken a painful decision. Let us wait and watch the outcome of it,” said a Politburo member, after coming out of the meeting. The party’s central leadership is crossing its fingers on the future action of Achuthanandan. “I am not sure whether he would continue in the party. I am not also sure whether he would remain as Chief Minister. I am really sad for him,” he added.

According to sources, Karat prevented voting, which might have gone in favour of Achuthanandan. Out of the 15-member Politburo, Vijayan was backed only by SS Ramachandran Pillai and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The central committee also reportedly suggested Vijayan’s expulsion, but Karat came to his rescue.

There were suggestions to sack Vijayan and appoint Ramachandran Pillai as State secretary in Kerala. State Local Administration Minister and central committee member Paloli Muhammed Kutty’s name was also propped up for the post of State secretary’s post. Several members advised Vijayan to make suo moto resignation offer before September 24, the day he is to appear before the CBI court.

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