Factional fault lines in CPI come to the fore again with Raja-Kanam feud

K E Ismail and Kanam Rajendran
K E Ismail and Kanam Rajendran

Thiruvananthapuram: The controversy created by women's wing leader Annie Raja's remarks on the Kerala Police has now snowballed into a rift within the Communist Party of India (CPI), both at the national level and in Kerala.

The current groupism at the party's Central and State-levels is almost reminiscent of the kind of factional wranglings which had been witnessed in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) a few years ago.

Personality clashes take ideological dimension
The organisational report presented at the last party congress of the CPI held at Kollam had pointed out that factionalism in the party had grown like cancer and many leaders were projecting it as an ideological fight for their own benefits. The senior leaders of the CPI had then made it public that personality-based factionalism was rampant in the party at all levels from grassroots to the national leadership.

Now that the party is gearing up for hosting another party congress, the feud between CPI general secretary D Raja and party State secretary Kanam Rajendran is again giving the impression that the party has not yet overcome the factional fights.

The latest flare-up
The current controversy has assumed a new dimension with K E Ismail, a known Kanam detractor and party national executive committee member, shooting off a letter to the national leadership, seeking discussion at the national executive committee about the State secretary's utterances against the party general secretary. The meeting of the national executive is slated for next month.

Though Kanam began his criticism against Annie Raja first, later his tirades were directed at Raja himself. According to party insiders, the main reasons for the current round of factionalism in the CPI are based on caste factors and the highhandedness of the labour union wing in the party.

What happened at last party congress
The factional reasons were attributed during the last party congress when it was decided to allow ailing Sudhakar Reddy to continue in the post of the party general secretary and do away with the post of deputy general secretary. It was alleged then that this was done to sideline Raja. After one year, Sudhakar Redyy had to step down due to failing health. Raja, a bete noire of Kanam, became the general secretary in July, 2019.

Raja's fault
The official owing allegiance to Kanam said that Raja had justified Annnie even after the party national executive and secretariat rejected Annie's line. But Ismail supporters pointed out that no such decision was taken at the national executive meeting. Raja had explained at the meeting how the party leaders should react to public issues.

Raja had explained at the meeting that there was nothing wrong in a national leader airing views on general issues like atrocities on women, children, Adivasis and other weakers sections based on the Communist ideology. But the national leaders should seek the views of the state unit before commenting on any State-specific issue.

According to Ismail supporters, Both Kanam and Annie tried to raise the issue at the national executive meeting. K Ramakrishna, who presided over the meet, did not allow any further discussions saying that it was not Communist tradition to continue debeate after the general secretary explained the matter.

They said that the deliberations of the national executive committee meeting were wrongly reported at the State Council, leading to widespread criticism against Raja and Annnie at the meeting. However, Raja has not yet responded to the statement made by Kanam.

Kanam sticks to his guns
Giving a clear message that he is in no mood to relent, Kanam Rajendran has made it clear that he is not going to budge from the public stand he had taken against the general secretary regarding the controversy.

While saying that he had only explained the decision of the State council, Kanam clarified that he had not criticised the general secretary. He clarified he had only pointed out that everyone in the party was bound by discipline.

To a question on the letter by Ismail to the central leadership, Kanam said he did not know about it. Then with a tinge of sarcasm he said that post offices were kept open for sending letters.

Other leaders of the CPI are not yet ready to take a public position on the matter. When asked by the media, though K E Ismail was silent on the matter, he did not deny the reports that he had sent the letter.

'Religious heads should show restraint'
Meanwhile, while reacting to the statement of the Pala Bishop on 'narcotic jihad', Kanam Rajendran said that religious heads should not pronounce anything that would create division in society.

To a question on the statement made by Kerala Congress (Mani) chairman Jose K Mani supporting the Pala Bishop, Kanam said that there was nothing wrong in a constituent party expressing opinion on an issue which the Left Democratic Front has not taken a final decision so far.

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