The veteran CPM leader V.S. Achuthanandan’s U-turn over the sensational murder of rebel party leader T.P. Chandrashekharan has stunned the general public and the cadre alike.
In a television interview last week, VS justified the party action of expelling just one of the accused and said no other party in the country would have done such a thing. He went a step further, accusing the Revolutionary Marxist Party, the outfit that had been floated by the slain leader, of being a sidekick of the Congress.
It was an entirely different VS talking that day. He appeared to have changed overnight and assumed a new persona. In 2012, immediately after the murder, the same Achuthanandan had gone on record to say that those who eat rice, the staple food of Malayalis, would find it difficult to swallow the leadership’s claim that the CPM was not behind the murder.
Even as the official coterie of state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan described Chandrashekharan, even after his death, as a betrayer of the cause, VS termed him a “brave comrade”.
VS did not stop there. He left the official leadership fuming when he visited the slain leader’s widow K.K. Rema and his aged mother on the day of a crucial by-election where a CPM deserter was contesting on a Congress ticket.
The official state leadership strongly recommended his removal as the leader of the Opposition, but the central leadership kept quiet.
A dazed Rema has termed the veteran’s turnaround as the 52nd cut inflicted on Chandrashekharan. (He was found dead with 51 stab wounds).
VS promptly retorted that she was just a pawn in the hands of former Congress home minister Thiruvanjoor Radhakrishnan, who has come out with a book on the murder and is planning a sequel too.
What prompted Achuthanandan to bury the hatchet and toe the party line after being a lone dissenter within the CPM for over a decade?
Even when the party came out with the statement dismissing the murder as the fallout of personal rivalry between Chandrashekharan and the expelled local committee member, VS welcomed it initially but soon corrected himself, saying it was not enough.
The CPM has not bothered to reveal the names of the members of the panel that inquired into the murder, as is the practice, nor did the committee ever meet Rema to get the family’s version. The party is adamant about not disclosing the contents of the report despite repeated calls to do so from the public.
Also, why did it take so long for the party to come out with this action, months after a court found 12 people guilty — five of them CPM activists — and awarded them life terms?
That the party had spent crores in the defence of the accused is common knowledge. Some attribute it to electoral compulsions. There is a beeline by the top party leadership to visit the accused in jail.
CPM insiders feel a deal has been struck between VS and party general secretary Prakash Karat, and the state leadership has been kept in the dark. Karat knows that if the party has to win handsomely in Kerala, the full cooperation of VS is essential. People have not forgotten how VS was seen laughing in front of television cameras when the party was decimated in the last election.
The grapevine has it that if the party improves its showing this time, VS would be re-inducted into the politburo from which he was unceremoniously thrown out on disciplinary grounds a few years ago. In the evening of his life, it is only natural that VS would long for such an honour.
However, the whole exercise may boomerang. Achuthanandan, by defending the party, has unknowingly brought the murder back to centre-stage with the election in Kerala hardly a fortnight away.
Above all, there are lingering doubts about the unpredictability of the man. There is every likelihood that Achuthanandan may turn the tables on the official leadership once the election is over. Only time will tell. But, as they say, time and tide wait for none.