Achuthanandan: Old ploy
New Delhi, Feb. 19: The thought of attending a rivals show can well make a politician sick. The Kerala chief minister, though, may actually make it official by getting himself admitted to hospital, his loyalists suggest.
Speculation is rife in Kerala that V.S. Achuthanandan might take sick leave to avoid the February 25 function that will conclude state CPM secretary Pinarayi Vijayans Nava Kerala Yatra.
Achuthanandan had used the same excuse last year, hiding in hospital to avoid opening the CPM-sponsored water theme park in Kannur, which he had opposed.
Sources said the chief minister was under pressure from the party to attend next weeks programme, to be inaugurated by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, at state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
The party has been embarrassed by Achuthanandans absence from the inaugural function of the yatra — Vijayans two-week, cross-Kerala road show — and has saved face by saying he would be at the concluding programme.
Since then, the scales in the rivalry have tilted towards the state secretary.
With the CBI seeking sanction to prosecute him in a contract controversy involving Canadian firm Lavalin, the CPM politburo has given Vijayan a clean chit and stopped just short of punishing Achuthanandan for defying the party line.
Asked after the politburo meeting whether Achuthanandan had been asked to attend the function, Karat had said: Wait and see.
Achuthanandans loyalists said he might admit himself to the Arya Vaidyashala in Kottackal for an ayurvedic course that is usually administered during monsoon.
They argue that attending the yatra would be political suicide for the chief minister. He will skip it at any cost. But only he will decide whether this will be through sick leave, a loyalist and party MLA said.
In the Assembly today, Achuthanandan not only refused to echo other CPM ministers who insisted the case against Vijayan was motivated but made a statement that appeared to rob the party of one of its lines of defence.
Lavalin is a party to the case. Let both sides fight it out in the court.… Let the court decide, the chief minister said. The seemingly innocuous statement came a day after Lavalin issued a clarification that seemed to back Vijayans version.
Achuthanandans stress on the fact that the company was a party to the case has given the Opposition another chance to say the authenticity of Lavalins version could only be decided by the court.
Weve passed on all (Lavalin) documents to the AG (attorney-general). As soon as we get his opinion, well take prompt action, the chief minister added.
The chief ministers office refused comment on the sick leave speculation, but an official confirmed there would be no cabinet meeting next week.
One MP and former Achuthanandan loyalist, however, said: The politburo has given him the freedom to make his own choice, so he has every right to stay away.
The chief ministers opponents have anticipated his move and informed the central leadership. If he goes on leave, he will be embarrassing the party and would have a lot of explaining to do, a state minister said.
Sources said the central leadership had increased the pressure on Achuthanandan to attend the function. He has used the same excuse once; let him try a different one this time, a Vijayan loyalist sneered.