Churning in CPM’s powerful Kannur lobby
The ego clash within the Kerala CPM’s “Kannur lobby” has assumed larger political dimensions with the state party secretary and the chief minister coming out openly against former district secretary P. Jayarajan.
This will have further ramifications in the Malabar region as Jayarajan was considered the poster boy of brand “Kannur communism” till the recent Lok Sabha elections, where he contested from the Vadakara constituency.
Jayarajan, who had survived an attempt on his life by RSS goons not so long ago, was put up as a “living martyr of murder politics” of which, ironically, the Kannur brand is famous for. His loss by over 80,000 votes was a shocker to the CPM, though not unexpected to the people belonging to the region.
Now there is a clamour among the supporters of Jayarajan, a sort of cult figure among the young party cadre in Kannur, to bring him back as district secretary or even head of the proposed Kerala Bank.
His cyber followers, known as the “PJ Army”, eulogise him and his family’s “communist lifestyle” compared to that of many other party leaders from the area, something appreciated by CPM followers and sympathisers alike.
This has immensely annoyed both chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state CPM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, especially in the wake of rape allegations against the latter’s elder son, who is reportedly on the run.
Jayarajan’s recent fallout with the party leadership has to be viewed in this background. Not that he has had good relations with Vijayan and Balakrishnan in the past either. In fact it was rumoured that the two plotted Jayarajan’s candidature to ease him out of Kannur.
The equations went from bad to worse last week when Jayarajan at a party convention, while explaining the circumstances that caused the suicide of an NRI investor, admitted to certain mistakes on the part of the chairperson of the CPM-controlled Aanthur municipality in Kannur that led to the unfortunate incident.
Sajan Parayil, a party sympathiser, allegedly committed suicide after the municipality denied him an occupancy certificate for his Rs 15-crore convention centre. His wife, Beena, then accused the chairperson of the municipality, P.K. Shyamala, of harbouring personal animosity against Sajan, leading to his suicide.
Shyamala is the wife of senior leader M.V. Govindan Master, CPM central committee member and a confidant of Vijayan.
Under mounting criticism against Shyamala, the CPM suspended four officials of the municipality, holding them directly responsible for the NRI’s death.
Contrary to the expectations of many party workers in the area, the CPM state secretariat gave Shyamala a clean chit and ruled out her resignation.
It was after this that Jayarajan, in the presence of Shyamala, publicly rebuked the chairperson for her lapses and told her not to repeat those mistakes.
Early this week, the chief minister, while replying to an agitated Opposition, told them not to attack the CPM “with the help of idols such as Jayarajan” and reminded them that in the past, too, there were attempts to “destroy the party with the help of idols”. “The party has survived those attacks,” Vijayan said.
Even as the Opposition chanted “VS, VS” in unison, it was clear that Vijayan was indeed referring to veteran V.S. Achuthanandan’s running battle with the party leadership in the past.
Achuthanandan and his followers were decimated by Vijayan and company, heralding the era of the all-powerful “Kannur lobby”, which today has a stranglehold over the party that critics say has alienated the CPM from the masses.
A day later, at the state executive committee meeting, Balakrishnan had reportedly named Jayarajan and admonished him for speaking out publicly. “The party will not tolerate this,” Balakrishnan was said to have told Jayarajan.
At the height of the power struggle within the party in the 90s, Vijayan as state secretary used to harp on an old Malayalam saying, which roughly translates as “even a tree that bears gold has to be cut if it grows above the house”.
It may not be that easy now. The party has changed under Vijayan, and Jayarajan is no Achuthanandan, especially when it comes to the “niceties of politics” as practised by Vijayan and company.