news Monday, February 02, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | February 2, 2015 | 5.45 pm IST For the first time since 1998, the CPI-M will elect a new 'captain' in Kerala, one of the communists' last bastions. This will happen when the Communist Party of India-Marxist elects a secretary of the Kerala unit during its state conference Feb 20-23 -- a powerful post in the party. The party recently re-wrote its constitution to say no office-bearer should get three terms in succession. As a result, Pinarayi Vijayan, who has been at the helm of party affairs in Kerala since 1998, will bow out this month. CPI-M insiders say that Vijayan can take credit for putting an end to the factionalism that plagued the party for a long time when he was pitted against his arch rival and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan. Both have clashed openly on numerous occasions, often embarrassing the party. Achuthanandan's clout has been weakened considerably. Vijayan has been able not only to dominate the 14 district units of the party in Kerala but also push out from the district committees leaders who owe their allegiance to Achuthanandan. With Vijayan now consolidating his position in the district committees by removing Achuthanandan supporters, all eyes are on who the next state secretary will be. The leading contenders appear to be legislators Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and M.A. Baby, who are also politburo members. The others are Elamaram Kareem, a legislator and a former minister, and E.P. Jayarajan. Over the years, apart from the Vijayan and Achuthanandan factions, the party also had a Kannur lobby. Kannur has been the CPI-M citadel. Vijayan and Balakrishnan are from Kannur. Kareem hails from neighbouring Kozhikode district. The fortunes of Baby, often seen as a moderate in the party, plunged after he was routed by his former state cabinet colleague N.K. Premachandran in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Vijayan, who nurses the ambition of becoming chief minister, is expected now on to make his moves cautiously. Achuthanandan, 91, however, remains a popular figure. Apart from Balakrishnan, Baby and Kareem, the dark horses include Vijayan's confidant Jayarajan and S. Ramachandran Pillai. IANS

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