Kerala CM removed from politburo

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By JAYANTH JACOB in Delhi
  • Published 12.07.09
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New Delhi, July 12: The CPM today sacked V.S. Achuthanandan from the politburo, let him stay on as Kerala chief minister and spared his state rival Pinarayi Vijayan, as the party made it clear that discipline came before personal views.

The axe, the first on a serving chief minister, came as the central committee wrapped up a two-day meeting to end the factionalism in the state unit.

Achuthanandan, who had a fair idea of what was in store, skipped the concluding session.

“I accept the party central committee’s decision,” he told reporters later, but asserted that there had been “no change” in his stand on the issue of corruption that led to his expulsion from the CPM’s top decision-making body.

Sources said some 40 per cent of the committee members, many of them from Bengal, argued for action against both Achuthanandan and state party chief Vijayan, who heads the dominant faction, though all agreed that the 85-year-old chief minister had violated party discipline. There was, however, no vote.

Some members who didn’t get a chance to speak submitted a written note to the politburo asking for action against both leaders, the sources said.

The views of all members from Kerala were then sought and some suggested that Achuthanandan should be sacked as chief minister.

The party finally decided on removing Achuthanandan from the politburo for going against the party line that the SNC Lavalin power scam case that has embroiled Vijayan was “politically motivated”.

The central committee said Vijayan, power minister in 1996-98 when controversial contracts were awarded to the Canadian firm, was not “involved in any corrupt practice whatsoever”. The central committee reiterated that the party would fight the case politically and legally.

About Achuthanandan, it said that “in view of the violations of the organisational principle and discipline”, he should be “removed from the politburo”.

A communiqué issued after the two-day meeting acknowledged Achuthanandan’s “big contribution to the party in Kerala” but said the central committee “expected” him to “fulfil his responsibilities as chief minister and as a leader of the party”.

Asked how Achuthanandan could remain chief minister when he was not fit to be a politburo member, CPM sources said a chief minister being a politburo member was not an “objective condition”.

“There have been chief ministers who were not politburo members,” a source said, alluding perhaps to Manik Sarkar, who became Tripura chief minister in 1998 but joined the politburo in 2002.

Bengal’s Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, became a member of the politburo the same year though he became chief minister in 2000.

Achuthanandan, who was the politburo’s senior-most member after special invitee Jyoti Basu, stayed confined to his room at Kerala House. “His blood pressure shot up and the doctor advised rest,” said a personal attendant.

By noon, news had trickled in that Achuthanandan, the only one living among the 32 Kerala leaders who left the CPI national council to join the CPM in 1964, had been removed from the politburo.

Achuthanandan’s phone kept ringing, while faxed messages of support poured in, some of them from the Gulf.

Achuthanandan had a vegetarian lunch and then a short nap. Later, central committee member Suneet Chopra dropped in. So did politburo members Vijayan and Kodiyeari Balakrishnan.

T.K.A. Nair, principle secretary to the Prime Minister, also dropped in, but to discuss the development of a port.

“Party discipline is supreme,” Chopra said while coming out.

As he emerged from his room around 4.30, Achuthanandan ran into a volley of questions.

“What do you have to tell the people of Kerala?” asked a reporter.

“Nothing,” the chief minister replied.

“Has your stand on the SNC Lavalin case changed now?

“No change,” he said.