Saturday, March 15, 2008

CPI: A Decadent Party and a Tired Leadership

Veteran Communist P K Vasudevan Nair is attacked posthumously, but CPI fails to raise a finger in his defence.

WHEN VELIYAM Bhargavan was elected as secretary of the CPI Kerala unit for the fourth consecutive term, no one seemed bothered about the irony of an 82-year-old man shouldering the responsibility of running a party that runs the State!

CPI is the second largest party in the ruling Left Democratic Front with four ministers in the cabinet looking after some of the most sensitive portfolios like food and civil supplies, revenue, forests and agriculture. In the one and a half years in power, these ministers have earned a name for inefficiency and lack of experience attracting quite an ample supply of brickbat for the mother of all Communist parties in India. If you rank the present ministers in the LDF Government for poor performance, surely the CPI ministers would find a place at the top of the list.

The recently concluded CPI state conference also came to the same conclusion. The party has admitted that compared to its own past performance, when CPI leaders like C Achutha Menon, P K Vasudevan Nair and E Chandrasekharan Nair were celebrated as efficient administrators, things are bad now. It said that the steering committee that was meant to give a direction to the ministers had not been effective, and even within the party’s parliamentary forum there were differences and squabbles that made things worse. The result has been a public show of chaos and lack of direction and purpose.

Worse, the party failed to face the corruption charges that came thick and fast against its ministers. From the Munnar imbroglio to Merchiston Estate land deal, what the pubic came to witness was the way the party had come to be in cahoots with those land sharks and real estate mafiosi who are making a plunder these days.

And how tired the party has been, when resisting these attacks! During the height of Merchiston Estate scandal, a CPI minister asked me whether I really believed that he was corrupt. Surely I have never doubted his integrity, but that was not sufficient for a public personality. So, I reminded him about the clich├ęd adage about Caesar’s wife.

If they had simply failed to protect themselves and their own public image, that would have been fine. Serves them right, one should say. But what made me sorry was the way they colluded in sullying the public image of a person like the late P K Vasudevan Nair, whose integrity has been unquestioned all these years. PKV was a wonderful human being, a principled politician and a self-less public activist and I was close to him in his last days when he returned to Delhi, after almost a quarter century, as a member of the present Lok Sabha. He was living in a spacious bungalow on the B D Marg and I was an uninvited guest at N K Premachandran’s flat at Swarna Jayanti apartments on the same road. Later when he was laid up with infection as he stepped on a rusted nail, he was staying at Kerala House after a long spell at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. It was a pleasure to visit him and always he welcomed us with a smile concealing his pain and suffering…

Well, that is another story. What I wanted to say was about this year’s journalism award announced by the Kerala Government. The award for best reporting went to one person in Malayala Manorama and when I read the stories that earned him this award, I realized to my shock that it was the story that said PKV had fraudulently claimed to be a farmer to get a few cents of land at Idukky where their party office now stands! This story and a series of others were published during the Munnar imbroglio and PKV and his ‘land grab’ were headlines those days.

Sadly, neither the CPI nor their newspaper Janayugam raised any protest against this blatant ill-treatment of a departed leader. It was Thejas daily that pointed out the matter in its editorial page and even then the CPI failed to take up the matter…

Well, one must say the party really needs some rest. (Others have long departed, like the beloved CPSU!) Perhaps, Comrade Veliyam too needs some rest but when people like K E Ismail and Pannian Ravindran are lurking around to grab the secretary’s post what could he do but to stay on in the hot seat?

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