Chief Minister VS embraces constitutionality Tuesday, Feb 3 2009 

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan with a few of his Cabinet colleagues

Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan with Cabinet colleagues

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.

Chief Minister Achuthanandan’s dilemma Thursday, Feb 14 2008 

Chief Minister of Kerala V. S. AchuthanandanKerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan is a stanch communist, berated by opponents for Stalinist obduracy. His State unit of his party (the Communist Party of India-Marxist) did not want him to be the Chief Minister and hence did not offer him even a seat contest in Assembly polls. Still, he won the seat and Chief Ministership because of popular support.

He was thus elected by the will of the people and not the will of the party. What he heads is a petty bourgeois democratic government. He cannot expect the support of the party that has turned to capitalist ways, converting paddy fields, acquiring properties and running businesses.

To start with, Mr. Achuthanandan tried to rule according to the wishes of the people who elected him. However, soon he has to submit to some of the dictates of the party, which knows that the people have little choice between the ruling and Opposition Fronts (LDF and UDF). This did not win him supporters in the party. The party was systematically working to undermine him as the Chief Minister. Now, he has been totally routed at the party conference.

The choice before him now is to quit bowing to the overwhelming verdict of the party or rule to fulfill the aspirations of the people to people who elected him with an overwhelming vote. But, Achuthanandan is incapable of doing either. He is after all a devout communist who has sworn to obey the dictates of the party. He also lacks the ability and a fitting team to deliver what the people wants. So, he may still choose the middle course to the misfortune of the people of Kerala.

Last vestiges of communists under seige Tuesday, Jan 15 2008 

Red flagThe last vestiges of communists in the CPI (M) are under seige. Jyothi Basu and Budhadeb Battacharya have already denounced socialism and have said that capitalism is the only way forward, given the ground realities.

However, a section of communists in both West Bengal and Kerala still want to stick to communist ideals, however impractical they may have become. In Kerala, communists and Stalinists led by Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan is fighting a losing battle to protect the last bastion of communism.

Kerala still have some people dreaming of a just society or at least envious of the rich. They had risen in support of Mr. Achuthanandan, when he was denied party ticket for the Assembly elections and later when he moved against the land mafia. However, Mr. Achuthanandan failed them badly.

The men he deputed against the land mafia were not people who tread carefully. In a Quixotic fashion, one (Suresh Kumar) uprooted the tea plants of Tata Tea on the slopes of Munnar in the thick of a monsoon and also went to break the glasses of a resort just to attract contempt of court proceedings. But when he tread on the feet of the ruling constituent Communist Party of India (CPI), Mr. Achuthanandan could not withstand the pressure from the CPI and a section in his own party. The Chief Minister’s image went into a tailspin as he shifted the officials including the Idukki Collector Raju Narayana Swamy.

Now, within the party, he is losing in the organisational elections at the district level one by one. The party’s control will remain with the official faction, opposed by Mr. Achuthanandan. The official faction is led by Pinarai Vijayan (State secretary) who can better be described as the CEO of the party. The party, according to some estimates, controls a financial empire with net worth of more than Rs. 50000 millions. Mr. Vijayan and his colleagues had realised that capitalist enterprise is the way forward for the party also— perhaps much before Budha and Basu.

Supporters of Pinarai have also managed a coup of sorts in the Revolutionary Socialist Party. A former Minister Ramakrishna Pillai seized control of the party, which is a partner to the ruling coalition. T. J. Chandrachoodan, who lost out to him, was a supporter of Achuthanandan in many matters, and a person who intelligently and sensibly articulated his views. He led the last of the ‘revolutionary’ socialists in the party and the State. RIP.

Related: Achuthanandan’s image