Thiruvananthapuram: The Communist Party of India (CPI) unanimously elected Kanam Rajendran as the Kerala State Secretary at the new State Council meet on Monday.
Kanam Rajendran is being elected to the post for the third consecutive time.
The state leadership had directed the district chapters to strictly abide by the age limit of 75 years for election to the Council. The national leadership also clarified the same.
CPI on Monday dropped senior leader C Divakaran from the state council after the party enforced the age criteria.
His name was not part of the list proposed by the Thiruvananthapuram district council.
Divakaran's public response just before the conference against the implementation of age criteria and KE Ismail's approach had put the party in a crisis, said many party members, including those who support the two leaders.
With this, the strength of the anti-Kanam faction, which planned to open a front against the state secretary, waned.
The reason for the dispute yesterday was that the representative of Ernakulam district, who opposed both the leaders, was questioned by a colleague from the same district. It was alleged that the responses of the senior leaders, who received all the support of the party, put the conference in a bad light.
State Assistant Secretary K Prakash Babu informed the media that there is no change in the age limit fixed by the Central Council.
CPI buries factionalism
Kanam is the third CPI state secretary to hold the post for three consecutive terms after N E Balram and P K Vasudevan Nair. "The conference demonstrated that the CPI is not riven by dissension as some quarters had alleged and is a united unit," Kanam told delegates after he was unanimously chosen as the CPI state secretary.
"Nonetheless, there is space to democratically air one's opinion within the party. It is not wrong to voice one's point of view either. Anyone can fearlessly put forward their position in the district councils. Decisions will be taken on the basis of a consensus. Once again we have proved that the CPI is a party of difference," he said.
In fact, there was a move by the anti-Kanam group to force a contest. Three names did the rounds: K Prakash Babu, V S Sunil Kumar and C N Chandran. However, the move to prop up a rival was dropped after elections in the district councils to nominate members to the CPI State Council revealed that the Kanam faction had a clear upper hand in nine district councils. It was also found that in at least four district councils, the members were neutral. A contest would have witnessed a drubbing for the rebel faction. Kanam, thus, was elected unanimously.
It is also a fact that the open defiance of the party by senior leaders K E Ismail and C Divakaran, both former ministers, did not find favour with the delegates, especially the younger lot. Both these leaders had crossed 80 and their public show of indiscipline was seen as a desperate attempt to hold on to positions of power. Sources said both the leaders were subjected to some sharp criticism by the delegates. There was a general consensus in the party that 75 should be fixed as the age ceiling to be nominated to the State Council.
During the last State Conference in 2018, C Divakaran had almost challenged Kanam but the former had opted out of the race at the last minute saying the party's unity was of far greater importance.
Besides C Divakaran and K E Ismail, both made ineligible by the 75-year age cap, former three-time MLA and the CPI's most popular face in Idukki, E S Biji Mol, also did not find a place in the new State Council. In her case, it was the public shaming of the party that seems to have caused her ouster from the Council.
After she had lost out in the race to the post of the Idukki district secretary, Biji Mol had alleged that she was the victim of male chauvinism in the CPI. She hinted that the CPI men could not tolerate a woman district secretary. This had invited widespread condemnation from the party.
The election process
The CPI State Council members are elected by the district chapters of the party. Before declaring the new State Council, each district is to recommend a Council member. The delegates from each district are meeting up to choose the Council member from their district.
As the quota from the State has been cut down by the Central leadership, the competition had become stronger. Earlier, as many as 30 could be nominated by the State centre to the State Council. This has now been cut down by half.