Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court's intervention banning all public events with the participation of more than 50 persons has forced the CPM to curtail the duration of its ongoing district conferences in Kasaragod and Thrissur. Friday's interim order of the High Court, though specific to Kasaragod district, has come as a major setback to the ruling party which was apparently adamant on holding the meets though COVID-19 containment guidelines on public functions and activities issued by the State Government were in force.
It might be recalled that the CPM did not go back from its decision to conduct Thrissur and Kasaragod conferences as scheduled even after Education Minister V Sivankutty, Kadakampally Surendran MLA and two other MLAs, who attended the Thiruvananthapuram district conference, tested positive for COVID-19.
Though the public meeting and the allied programmes were dropped, almost 200 delegates attended conferences in both the districts. Apart from delegates, there were a large number of volunteers too.
The court's intervention over the Kasaragod district conference came at a time when CPM was going ahead with the conferences by ignoring the criticism from the Opposition, adverse murmurs of the public and the concerns raised by the experts working in the health sector.
Embarrassing enough, the HC order stopping the party conferences came just after CPM State secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan vehemently rejected the allegation made by Opposition Leader in the Assembly VD Satheesan that a set of relaxations on strict COVID-19 rules were given by the State Government to pave way for the conduct of CPM district conferences.
The CPM had to face widespread criticisms over conducting the Thiruvananthapuram district conference and "Thiruvathirakali" when the government had restrained the conduct of political and cultural meetings with the participation of more than 75 persons.
Though lockdown-like curbs are announced for the coming Sunday, Jan 23, an impression was given by the party that the district conferences would continue on Sunday in both the places.
CPM used EC order as excuse
The CPM made use of the decisions taken at the meeting attended by the Chief Secretaries and the Chief Election Officers of the four poll-bound States as a justification for holding CPM district conferences in the State.
When sharp criticisms were aired against the conduct of the Thiruvananthapuram district conference, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan defended the move by saying that the Election Commission of India had allowed the participation of 300 persons for political functions.
The EC's directives issued after the meeting held on December 15 will have validity till January 22 (today). The Commission would take a decision on whether to continue these restrictions only after assessing the latest COVID-19 situation.
As per the decision of the earlier EC meeting, "pada yatras", cycle and bike rallies, and road shows were all barred. It was clear from this that the guidelines were issued by the EC specifically in connection with the Assembly polls to be held in four States.
CPM cites practical difficulties
The CPM leaders are pointing out practical difficulties in postponing the conferences after completing all the preparations for the event.
Since the names of district conference delegates coming under each area committee have already been selected, the truth is that the party is not in a position now to reduce the number of conference delegates.
However, the CPM had to face the flak that the ruling party can do anything. Since Congress and BJP dropped their programmes due to rapid COVID-19 spread, the justification of CPM that it conducts party conferences in a restrained manner by strictly adhering to social distance has only few takers.
Though the party considered to postpone the district conferences in Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kasaragod since the State conferences would begin only from March 1, the organisers of the district conferences stiffly opposed the move.
Alappuzha conference postponed
The CPM on Saturday announced its Alappuzha district conference scheduled from January 28 has been postponed.
The new date will be announced later, said CPM district secretary R Nazar.
Alappuzha is designated under "Class A" category as part of the strict COVID-19 control measures. More than 50 persons are not allowed to gather in a public function in the district as per the 'A' category norms.
As many as 230 delegates were expected to attend the Alappuzha district conference.