Kerala’s endangered political parties Friday, Apr 30 2010 

Kerala Congress leader P. J. Joseph

P. J. Joseph

The decision of the Kerala Congress led by P. J. Joseph to quit the Left Democratic Front comes as no surprise. Nor is the opposition to its merger with the Kerala Congress (M) in the United Democratic Front.

The Church:
The move follows total disenchantment of the Church with the LDF dispensation. The Kerala Congress has been told in no uncertain terms by Church leaders that it would not find support if it contested the elections from the LDF camp. So the hurried decisions to decamp. The LDF too is not keen to press the Kerala Congress to remain in the Front as the party would be worthless without the ability to pull-in Christian votes. So, this is divorce by mutual consent despite CPI (M)’s accusations of betrayal.

Refugees:
The Kerala Congress led by P. C. George has already found refuge in the Kerala Congress (M) though latter’s leader K. M. Mani was the bête noire of George for long. Another Kerala Congress group led by R. Balakrishna Pillai is contemplating admission to the Congress. The Jacob group is back in the UDF after some dilly-dallying with the LDF.

The perception that the electoral prospects of the LDF are dim for the coming elections is an added reason for constituents quitting the LDF. Even CPI would like to quit if it had an option.

Extinction of species:
The larger picture is quiet depressing for small political parties of Kerala. Kerala has seen extinction of several parties such as the SSP, KSP, KTP, PSP, NDP and SRP. The Democratic Indira Congress led by K. Muraleedharan had to immolate itself and seek refuge in the NCP. Now, Muraleedharan has quit the NCP too and is waiting at the door steps of the Congress for entry.

The RSP splinter group in the UDF has found accommodation in the JSS led by K. R. Gouriamma. But the question is whither JSS after Gouriamma. The Congress (S), Janata Dal factions, RSP and even the CPI have also become threatened species in Kerala politics.

Bereft of ideology:
Regional parties such as the Kerala Congresses are losing ground in Kerala, bereft of any ideology or agenda other than capturing or staying in power. However, united, the Kerala Congress is bound to improve its electoral position in the coming Assembly election. Otherwise, leaders such as Mani, P. C. George, Joseph and Mons would have found the going tough in their constituencies.

Trouble for Congress:
The Congress will do better not to spare any additional seats for the United Kerala Congress. It is seeking to improve its bargaining position during seat division by allowing the entry of Balakrishna Pillai and his son into the party. Muraleedharan would also eventually find a place in the Congress if the situation gets tough.

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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.