When VS defied CPM bar on meeting ex-comrade 'Berlin' Kunjanandan Nair

Berlin Kunjananthan Nair, VS Achuthanandan

Thiruvananthapuram: The CPM leadership, which now targets the Congress party for restraining former Union Minister KV Thomas from attending the seminar on Saturday to be held as part of the CPM Party Congress in Kannur, comfortably forgets the past incidents in which the party had enforced an individual-level ban on its leaders from even meeting ex-comrades.

The main instance was how it restrained former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan 10 years ago from visiting party old guard and fellow traveller Berlin Kunjananthan Nair at the latter's house in Kannur for a luncheon meeting.

It is quite interesting to note how the official CPM faction led by the then party State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan enforced a "lunch ban" on VS.

Kunjananthan Nair holds the rare distinction of having attended the first CPM Party Congress. From the present venue of the Party Congress in Kannur, it is hardly 12 km of distance to the house of Nair situated at Narathu. The house of Nair was both a hiding place and a resting place for the party leaders such as founding leader P Krishna Pillai and leaders like Pinarayi Vijayan.

Why CPM issued the ban order

Once a staunch supporter of Pinarayi, Nair stood with VS during the intense factional fight in the party in the 2000-15 era. He was expelled from the party in 2005 for his public utterances against the party. In 2009, when the now KPCC president K Sudhakaran stood for Lok Sabha polls in Kannur, Nair publicly campaigned for him, challenging the CPM.

This infuriated the party and the CPM workers were restrained from keeping in contact with Nair. It was during this period that party central committee member VS paid a visit to Nair's house in July in 2011.

VS made a decision to meet Nair, who was recovering at home after an Ayurveda treatment. VS promised  Nair that he would come to his house for lunch when he came to attend a meeting in Thalassery. An elated Nair made all arrangements for the lunch.

But the CPM district secretariat decided that VS should not go for lunch at Nair's house. Soon, the district committee's decision was intimated to VS by Pinarayi Vijayan.  Pinarayi specifically asked VS not to go to Nair's house. But VS defied the whip and went to his house.

Though Nair had arranged a sumptuous meal for VS, the latter did not have lunch there saying that both of them had decided not to have lunch together. VS, who defied the party whip and met Nair, apparently didn't want to provoke the party further and hence, skipped the lunch offered by Nair.

How the party responded

But VS' visit to Nair's house created a flutter in the district CPM. The party held a public meeting at the junction situated next to the house of Nair and leaders such as MV Jayarajan and P Jayarajan explained the party's position.

P Jayarajan called Nair a spy who received a kickback for destroying the Communist Party, while MV Jayarajan said that Nair had no knowledge about the world, adding further that there was no apt word available in the dictionary to call him. In an article in the party mouthpiece "Deshabhimani", Pinarayi had called Nair a “fake”. Later on, Nair had to face vituperate verbal attacks from CPM workers.

Years passed by and with the total eclipse of VS Achuthanandan in the State party unit, Nair diluted his opposition to Pinarayi and tried to enter in his good books again. Soon, CPM State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan invited him to join the party fold again.

Differing views in party

Though Pinarayi Vijayan and the CPM district leadership were against VS' visit to Nair's house, there were conflicting opinions inside the party over the issue. Senior party leader from the district EP Jayarajan had publicly stated that there was nothing wrong in VS visiting Nair. Another senior leader MA Baby also echoed the same opinion.

CITU leader MM Lawrence, a bete noire of VS, had said that it was not heroism to defy the party whip. He further said that a cadre should follow the party line if he was asked by the party not to go to the house of an expelled leader.

How VS defended himself

Unfazed by criticism, VS defended himself by calling his visit a “humanitarian gesture”. VS further took a dig at Pinarayi. "We don’t involve politics when it comes to weddings, deaths or when someone is ill. MV Raghavan was alleged to be responsible for the murder of the five party cadres in Koothuparambu. But I attended the marriage of Pinarayi's daughter along with Raghavan, Lawrence and BJP leader C K Padmanabhan."

CPM's double standards

CPM used to restrain party leaders from going to a leader's house who had worked for the party for many years in the past while Congress has restrained Thomas for deciding to attend a seminar organised by the rival party. The earlier one was a visit of individual nature, while the present one is a political one.

Such criticisms are made by CPM leaders against Congress even though they realise very well that it is the prerogative of the respective political party to allow or not to allow a leader to attend a political programme arranged by a rival party.

So, it is an irony that the party, which did not allow VS to visit Kunjanandan Nair's residence where Communist leaders such as P Krishana Pillai and Pinaryi Vijayan had spent days together while being underground, is now questioning Congress for not allowing KV Thomas to attend the CPM Party Congress currently being held in Kannur.

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