V S Achuthandan: Opportunist or Strategist?

Political pundits were just starting to write off V S Achuthandan (VS), but the veteran is suddenly making news again.
V S Achuthandan: Opportunist or Strategist?
V S Achuthandan: Opportunist or Strategist?
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By N K BhoopeshPolitical pundits were just starting to write off V S Achuthandan (VS), but the veteran is suddenly making news again.VS has made a sudden volte face on the issue of T P Chandrasekharan’s murder, a rebel CPIM leader from the Northern part of Kerala. This volte face has brought a lot of cheer to CPIM leaders and cadres, while the non CPIM people, who till the other day saw VS as the last living man who has all the virtues of a communist, when values in politics is considered as anachronism, feels let down. What has created furore is VS's recent statement in which he ‘corrected’ his earlier position on T P Chandrasekharan’s murder and the CPIM’s involvement in the gruesome killing. When CPIM state and central leadership denied any involvement of the party in the killing, V S was reluctant to buy this argument. On several occasions, he openly suggested CPIM leaders were involved in the murder.Against party diktat, VS even went to console slain leader’s wife, K K Rema when polling was under way for the Neyyanttinkara by-election. VS was reprimanded for his public utterance against party version on killing. Though VS got a severe drubbing from the party, he was eventually able to persuade the central leadership into ordering an independent party inquiry into the killing. The party till date has not disclosed the members of the inquiry committee, and the inquiry is being conducted. The leadership’s version has been that if party disclosed its findings it will affect the judicial process. But once the court verdict was out finding three party local leaders guilty, it was difficult for the leadership to withhold its inquiry report. Handling VS on this issue was most difficult.Revolutionary Marxist Party, the party founded by T P Chandrasekharan, ever since its formation has been waiting for V S to come out of the CPIM fold and lead them. His occasional utterances against the party state leadership, kept alive RMP’s hopes. Their expectation grew day by day after VS visited Rema’s wife, and even shot a letter to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala , asking him to take necessary actions on Rema’s demands.Everyone thought VS will be removed from the Central committee for his anti party activities. But VS was all along playing a clever game.Earlier in March, after taking VS into its stride, CPM decided to expel a party member, K C Ramachandran who was found guilty by court in the murder case. Soon after KC Ramachandran was expelled, VS slowly began to distance himself from RMP and started criticizing them for what VS called playing second fiddle to the Congress led UDF front. When elections were announced, VS started defending party saying that only CPIM could take a principled stand and expel a member from the party who was found guilty in the murder case. VS went on to allege that Rema, was acting at the behest of Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, a prominent minister in state cabinet who was also the home minister when TP Chandrasekharan murder was investigated. V S’s U- turn has come as shocker for his detractors and fans as well. While some termed this as VS totally succumbing to the party’s wish, others close to the party were happy that VS had finally become a “party’s man’’. Those who have closely observed the nonagenarian leader did not find anything unusual in the whole situation. History bears testimony to their argument that VS stirs up issues only to suit his political ambition. A founding member of the CPIM, which was formed after several leaders walked out the national council of CPI alleging the leaders of ”rightwing deviations’’, Achuthanandan was the party’s unquestioned leader even while the legendary EMS Namboodiripad was alive. But his calculations went wrong when he anointed Pinarayi Vijayan, at that time his associate, as party secretary. Pinarayi Vijayan turned out to be VS’s nemesis. His effort to remove Pinarayi Vijayan in party conference in 2005 turned out as disaster for VS. Pinarayi Vijayan, who is known for his organizational skills, sidelined VS associates in the party. Despite V S Achuthandan’s repeated efforts to throttle his moves, Pinarayi was able to seize control of the party machinery. But VS did not relent. When he lost party organization to back him, VS deliberately took up social issues which CPIM leaders were reluctant to address. By taking up sex racket cases, unleashing a war against land mafia etc VS earned an image for himself in public, which no communist leader except AKG had. This image eventually made him the Chief Minister against state party leadership’s wishes. But when he became Chief Minister he could not fulfill what that he promised while he was in opposition. But his polemics against the party leadership made him look like a victim which he used very well during his rule as Chief Minister.After being completely sidelined, all VS could now do was to seize an opportunity to come back to centre stage. A man who was the focal point in all elections for almost a decade, doesn't want to be a watching from the sidelines. A decade of virtual war with the party leadership, and now the veteran communist leader might have thought to play other way round. His sudden dislike for the RMP must be understood in this context. A politician who wants to stay relevant.Bhoopesh is a senior journalist based out of Kerala.

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