Munnar and the myth of unity among Communists

via Pioneer News Service | Thiruvananthapuram published on May 11, 2008

If the first year in office for the CPI(M)-led LDF Government was not very comfortable, the second year has been full of crises, mostly caused by squabbles within the Left front and lack of political weakness on the part of the rulers and the CPI(M). The Government, which had come to power with an overwhelming electoral support, is fining itself neck-deep ion troubles as it is approaching its second anniversary on May 18.

The biggest problem in the first year of the Government, perhaps, was the creation of Education Minister MA Baby with his ill-advised and badly planned Kerala State Self-Financing Professional Colleges Act of 2006, intended to keep the colleges in tight control, but failed the test of law. But the biggest setback suffered by the Government in its second year was in the case of the ambitious but weakly designed programme to retrieve the encroached public lands, especially in Munnar, by none other than Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan himself.

After that the Government had not been able to do anything correctly and consistently for the people. The humiliating failure the Government suffered on almost all fronts were due to the ever-evasive unity within the Left Front, more precisely the ego and interest clashes between the largest front constituents CPI(M) and CPI.

Since Munnar, nothing seemed OK for the Government. After the Munnar failure, came the land controversy pertaining to the Indian Space Research Organisation, a final settlement of which is yet to be found. The Government faced the wrath of the entire Hindus in the State when it failed miserably in managing the affairs at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala and the Travancore Devaswom Board, which brought the simmering feud among the LDF constituents.

The HMT-Blue Star Realtors land deal scam is still in the court, and indications are that, it would not end soon. This controversy and many others proved how weak veteran communist VS was as a Chief Minister despite his seventy long years of political battles. Towards the end of the first year, it seemed even the powers of nature were against the communists when summer rains destroyed the rich paddy fields submerging the dreams of a bright harvest. Through all these incidents, the people of the State had to stand on the brink of a food famine, and they have not yet passed that situation. If the LDF Government survived all these problems to carry on as a dead machine the credit should go to the lack of political direction and will of the Congress, which has had no time in the whole year except for infighting.

Munnar marked the start of Achuthanandan’s yet-to-be completed fall. He had launched the anti-encroachment drive in the first week of May, 2007 as his personal gift to the people of Kerala on the eve of the first anniversary of the Government he was leading. It was praised all over the country and in many places abroad. It was indeed a great move. But even when Achuthanandan was preparing to take the full credit of it – an effort which led to the suspension of himself and his party State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan from the Politburo – the front ally CPI was preparing for a different fight within the LDF.

Special Officer K Suresh Kumar, who was in charge of the demolition gang engaged in eviction of land-grabbers in Munnar, ensured that the CPI – and even a section of the CPI(M) – did not allow it to go on for long. Right at the moment of the first touch of the bulldozer’s snorkel on the parapet of the CPI office in Munnar, which was said to have been built on land with illegal title deed document, the fate of the Munnar operation was sealed.

CPI revolted, and the result was the inevitable end of the eviction drive. The same Achuthanandan, who had praised the “demolition squad” without any restrictions, was forced to turn against it.

No other instance could be found for how much the new generation CPI leadership disliked the ways of classical Marxist Achuthanandan’s governance than its outbursts related to Munnar. CPI leaders Pannyan Raveendran and KE Ismail competed with each other in slapping qualifiers on “coat-clad” Suresh Kumar (who went around wearing a woolen cardigan) and Achuthanandan who backed him up.

The row is yet to end. And this one instance was more than enough to bring out how lightly they were taking CPI State secretary Veliyam Bhargavan’s appeals for CPI-CPI(M) reunification!

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