Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has taken an unassailable position. He has stated that he is not only a party functionary but also a Constitutional functionary elected to carry out Constitutional duties. The call of duty finds him at variance with the party policy.
This is something unprecedented in the CPI (M). Under communist rule, party controlled the Chief Minister not the Constitution. He hardly ever carried out his duties without fear or favour towards the party. Now, Achuthanandan, the staunch communist, has defied the communist tradition with immense consequence to the party.
Though party principles and Constitutional principles were at odds with each other, it did not cause much of a problem when E. M. Sankaran Namboodiripad was the Chief Minister. Nor did it as long as Naboodiripad was the doing the backseat driving for E. K. Nayanar. However, corruption started to rule the roost at various levels when party proxies with no Constitutional positions started running the government from behind. All the present day problems of the party including the SNC Lavalin case had their origins during that period.
So, Achuthanandan’s proposition that he and his Cabinet should be allowed to carry out their Constitutional duties is good for the party and the government. There is nothing worse than power without responsibility, of extra constitutional entities running the government. Party machinery could become self serving. It is more difficult for the government machinery to become one like that. So, the writing on the wall is that communist parties should change their party principles to accommodate certain separation of powers between the party and Constitutional functionaries unless Achuthanandan is not to be tempted to follow the path of Lok Sabha Speaker Somanath Chatterjee with some variations.
However, Achuthanandan’s present stand is not without consequence to himself and the Cabinet. Achuthanandan has implied that his Ministers are not towing the Constitutional line he is adopting. So, according to the very Constitutional principles he is upholding, he has to drop the Ministers who refuses to act according to the Constitution. However, if he does not have majority support in the Assembly, he will have to resign. Thus, Achuthanandan’s principled positions cannot be maintained without a cost and his victories would turn out to be limited.