Squabbling CPM local leaders settle scores violently, a worrying trend in Kerala

CPM to provide 'pension' to leaders aged above 75

Even as the CPM is on the defensive after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested on Wednesday five partymen over the 2019 Periya twin murder case, the party is worried over a negative trend within its fold.

The CPM's ruthlessness in eliminating political rivals is reflected in the trend in which party functionaries at the local level are turning against their own comrades. Such infighting has become frequent at a time the CPM is busy holding party conferences.

Disputes in party meetings are spilling over not just to the streets or in targeting the rivals' residences. In Thiruvananthapuram, two branch secretaries even exchanged blows in the street. A few videos showing the clash of comrades at the local level became viral on the internet recently.

The following incidents reported from Alappuzha, a bastion of communists, epitomise the growing indiscipline and infighting in the party ranks.

• A dispute over holding branch-level conferences under Ramankary local committee left two party workers injured. Those assaulted later waylaid branch secretary Saravanan in a retaliatory move, attacked him, and damaged his car. His scooter, parked at home, was set ablaze. Claiming innocence, Saravan's rivals alleged that the branch secretary had hoisted a false case against them. Police have registered a case.

• Soon after the party decided to oust N P Vidyadharan as the secretary of the Punnapra South local committee and forced him to nominate a 15-member panel, he formed an 11-member panel along with his son and contested the poll, and nine of them won. The day after the poll, the houses of some of those who had been defeated were attacked. Though a police complaint was lodged, it was later withdrawn. Incidentally, the houses of senior CPM leaders VS Achuthanandan and G Sudhakaran fall under the Punnapra South local committee.

• An assault attempt was made against former municipal chairperson Mercy Diana Macedo, who attended the Kalappura branch meeting as the representative of the higher committee.

Instances in Thiruvananthapuram

• Two members of the existing area committee at Varkala engaged in a public spat before the conclusion of the area committee meeting in the presence of a few State committee members. When the war of words crossed all limits, the State committee members intervened and introduced a panel excluding both the area committee leaders. Two posts were also left vacant. But their irate followers gathered in large numbers outside the venue when the panel, excluding their leaders, was introduced.

• One local functionary was seen brandishing a knife at the Chebampoika branch committee meeting at Mylom in Kottarakkara. The dispute was over the presence of two comrades at the conference. These two were suspended for being inactive during the Assembly poll campaign. The dispute became a free-for-all clash, and its visuals went viral on social media.

Brawl in Palakkad

At Valayar in the Palakkad district, the CPM had to set up a commission to probe the clash between two sections of party workers over the bifurcation of the local committee. Furniture at the meeting venue was destroyed, and a section of activists raised slogans and held a sit-in protest in front of the dais just before the inaugural meet.

Aberration or continuation?

The district and the State leaderships of CPM have been explaining and interpreting brawls and violence as isolated ones. Considering the number of conferences being held, they could be termed isolated incidents. However, while considering the internal revolts sparked by the nomination of candidates in the Assembly polls early this year, these clashes could not be considered as isolated ones, but as continuing incidents.

The poll-related rebellion had then spilled over to the streets of Ponnanni and Kuttiadi. Abusive slogans, publicly insulting the Kozhikode district secretary, were raised in a rally. Though the party leadership had brushed it aside as isolated incidents, the disciplinary actions and serious accusations in the review report revealed the seriousness the CPM had attached to them.

Decades ago the factional spat of veteran leader VS Achutanandan and the powerful then-party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had two sides: one was the power struggle within the party, and two, a tussle of ideas between reformists and traditionalists within the Marxist party. The latter aspect gave the row a different dimension, leading to heated arguments in party conferences, cutting rivals down to size and the consequent friction. Though factionalism was then at its peak, it never created a law and order situation outside the party fora, as seen now when most senior CPM leaders in the party belong to the post-Emergency generation.

The CPM might have temporarily silenced those who pursued the 'wrong trends' during the Assembly polls. But the recent incidents related to party conferences show that the 'revolutionaries' cannot always be silenced.

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