Factionalism on full show on the eve of CPI State Conference

C Divakaran and KE Ismail
C Divakaran and KE Ismail.

On the eve of the CPI State Conference in Thiruvananthapuram, the party witnessed an unprecedented show of disunity and indiscipline.

Two of CPI's senior state leaders K E Ismail and C Divakaran, both of them former ministers and opposed to the age cap of 75 prescribed by the party, failed to turn up at the start of the pre-Conference flag-carrying procession organised at Neyyattinkara in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, September 29.

The absence of these leaders was especially notable as it came right after state secretary Kanam Rajendran issued a strict warning against attempts to create internal divisions. “There is no factionalism in the CPI, nor is the party individual-centric. Those exhibiting such tendencies will have no space in the party,” Kanam said in his customary pre-conference message sent to CPI branch secretaries on Thursday.

Kanam also noted that washing dirty linen in public was not a CPI trait, a clear reference to C Divakaran's open defiance of the party's move to cap the age limit at 75 for holding positions in top bodies of the party. According to the Ismail-Divakaran faction, the age cap of 75 is just part of the guidelines drawn up by the central leadership for the State Conference to deliberate upon. It is flexible and could be eased by the respective state units, they argue.

Nonetheless, it is unusual for Left leaders, especially the CPI, to spill inner-party squabbles out in the open. The party is even planning to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Divakaran for his open revolt.

It is in this context that both Ismail and Divakaran have failed to attend the inauguration of the flag-bearing procession. Top CPI sources said Ismail had told organisers that he was unable to participate as he was caught in a personal emergency. “He was in Thiruvananthapuram during the last two days but had to leave suddenly,” the source said.

Ismail was supposed to hand over the CPI flag to the 'jatha' (procession) captain, J Venugopalan Nair, the state president of Kisan Sabha. In his absence, civil supplies minister G R Anil was asked to do the honours.

Venugopalan Nair was especially critical of Divakaran. "Instead of attending the programme, he prefers to appear only before the media. The CPI does not function like this," Nair told Manorama News. "His absence was inappropriate," he added.

In fact, Divakaran has been chosen to hoist the flag on October 1 at Tagore Theatre in Thiruvananthapuram to mark the start of the delegate session of the CPI State Conference. At the moment, it is not clear whether he would be stripped of this honour.

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