The lone old face is at the helm and all other existing players have rested — but is it a tussle between old and new faces or a move to set up absolute power of the captain?
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan scripted history in the recent meeting election, fitting the first to keep power in four decades and ending the tradition of power alternating between the state’s two major political coalitions. In the process, he assumed lucid primacy in the battle for leadership both in the party and left movement in the country. In the run up to the elections, cadres and media gifted him a title, captain, though the party distanced from it.
Vijayan is now at the crease, for his second innings — but with an entirely new team.
The effect of new party norms
As the crusade for the meeting elections used to be approximately to start, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) announced a new norm — no ticket would be provided to legislators who won two terms consecutively. After its thumping win (99 out of 140 seats), another provision used to be imposed that every one ministers will be dropped to make way for new faces.
Insiders claim that the party needed to reinvigorate itself to meet fresh challenges, and the West Bengal and Tripura setbacks for the Left had only underlined the urgency of this change.
“We don’t have to repeat mistakes of West Bengal and Tripura in Kerala. We need a new crop of leaders both in parliamentary positions and party,” explained senior leader and politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai justifying what he called “inevitable changes.”
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But there is little doubt that these tailored norms have helped Pinarayi Vijayan to cement his position in the party and government again. “In the name of new faces the CM has eliminated all potential threats and dissent in the new cabinet. Since all ministers are new entrants absolute power will rest in his hands. The party says it won’t consider in individuality but in turn it strengthens it,” said political observer Umesh Babu.
With his move to disclaim tickets to two-term legislators, the CM had sidelined many permanent fixtures such as finance minister Thomas Isaac, industry minister EP Jayarajan and public works branch minister G Sudhakaran.
With his move to only have fresh faces, he has removed any imaginable threat from the most visible and, arguably hottest minister in the outgoing cabinet, KK Shailaja, the face of the fight against pandemic in the state as the health minister. In most pre-poll survey her popularity rating came next to the CM.
“We feel something is lacking in the new ministry. We all thought Shailaja will be there,” said actor and party camp follower Mala Parvathi.
“Dropping Shailaja Teacher would create enormous perceptional problems, nationally and internationally and common people, in addition to health staff, are already feeling orphaned. Sincerely wish there will be rethink on the issue,” tweeted creator and former bureaucrat NS Madhavan.
The CPI(M) state unit has, alternatively, made it lucid that there’s no having a look back. “We stick to our decision. Once the party takes a decision it is going to be implemented,” said acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan
Vijayan’s expanding keep watch over
After the party’s victory, when the dominant a story used to be focused on how the vote used to be an affirmation of Vijayan’s leadership, the party’s mouthpiece, People’s Day by day, in a signal that every one wasn’t mannered, carried an edit saying that some people were trying to paint it as an individual victory but it used to be a victory of the party. This, alternatively, did little to decrease Vijayan’s clout.
On cabinet appointments, politburo members such as Brinda Karat expressed reservations over omission of Shailaja but the Politburo determined not to interfere with the “unanimous decision” of the state unit.
And Vijayan stuck to his decision.
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“It sort of feels in the party hierarchy, Vijayan has outgrown even the highest decision making body of the party, Politburo,” said another political observer Appukutan Vallikunnu. Actually, this predated the recent victory, for in 2017, when there used to be a strong view in favour of a third term in Rajya Sabha for party general secretary Sitaram Yechury with the improve of the Congress, the Kerala department of the party reportedly took a strong position against it.
Many detractors of the party also point out the propriety in inducting the CM’s son-in-law PA Mohammed Riyas in the ministry. “The CPI(M) incessantly talks in length approximately propriety and decency in public life. How did the CM induct his son-in-law when many youngsters are around? There’s a big difference between the party’s words and deeds,” said Bharatiya Janata Party leader S Suresh.
But CPI(M) state leaders have defended the decision, on the grounds that Riyas has been in active politics for more than two decades and his marriage with CM’s daughter T Veena final year couldn’t be basis to disqualify him.
“Criticism in this regard is uncalled for. I rose from the ranks. People who realize me will not raise such criticism” said Riyas, who could also be the national president of the party youth wing, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).
But all of it put together — a lucid victory under his leadership, followed quickly by stamping out any imaginable political threats and instituting enhanced keep watch over over the party and the government — and it shows Pinarayi Vijayan is now not just Kerala’s most important leader but is the dominant decision-maker in the Left in India.
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