While Pinarayi has for long been seen as a protégé of VS, they have been at loggerheads for more than a decade.

The VS-Pinarayi rivalry goes back a long way A look at major tiffs
news VS-Pinarayi Friday, April 22, 2016 - 20:05

The nonagenarian CPI (M) leader, V S Achuthanandan, on Thursday campaigned in the Dharmadom constituency, from where the CPI (M) Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan is contesting the Kerala Assembly elections. 

While Pinarayi has for long been seen as a protégé of VS, they have been at loggerheads for more than a decade. 

For a long time now, the party has been witnessing serious political factionalism between former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, popularly known as VS, and Pinarayi Vijayan, who was the party head in Kerala from 1998-2015.

Ideological differences between the two can be considered as a relevant factor for the discord. While VS is an old-school Marxist who is anti-corporate and an anti-corruption crusader, Pinarayi is seen as a supporter of big corporates and neo-liberal policies.    

More than ideological feuds, the strained relationship is mostly due to a power struggle with both leaders trying to assert their influence in the Communist party.

While the two leaders have constantly engaged in a war of words, The News Minute brings you five major instances that have defined the VS-Pinarayi relationship:

1. VS speaks against Pinarayi in the SNC-Lavalin case (1996-98)

Pinarayi Vijayan has been facing corruption allegations in the SNC Lavalin case from the time the Auditor General’s report on the deal was leaked to the press on May 5, 2009. On various occasions, VS made snide remarks hinting at Pinarayi’s involvement in the corruption scam. Also, when the then Governor asked the CBI to prosecute Pinarayi based on prima facie evidence, thus overruling a cabinet recommendation, VS seemed to approve of the Governor’s decision. The CPI (M) had called the Governor’s move as unconstitutional. 

Vijayan was the power minister when the state electricity board signed a deal with Canadian firm SNC Lavalin for renovation of three hydel power projects.

2. Alleged conspiracy behind Achuthanandan’s defeat in 1996 Assembly Elections

VS suffered an upsetting defeat in the 1996 Assembly Elections. VS, who contested the elections from his home turf in Mararikkulam, which was a red bastion, lost the elections at a time when he was being projected as the CM candidate of the LDF. Ever since, a lot of conspiracy theories have floated around alleging Pinarayi faction’s role in sabotaging Achuthanandan’s chances of winning the elections. 

3. In 2005, VS suffered a major setback at the 18th State Conference of the party

All 12 members who were fielded by VS in the party state committee election were defeated at the 18th State Conference of the party, which was held in Malappuram. The 545 party delegates, who were present at the state conference, officially endorsed the panel proposed by the previous state committee led by Pinarayi, thereby rejecting the 12 members who were nominated by VS. Further, the conference re-elected Pinarayi as the State Secretary for another three-year term. This gave Vijayan a platform for making a grand comeback in the party. Also, later in 2005, VS was removed as the editor of the party’s newspaper- Desabhimani, Kerala’s third largest daily.

4. VS was initially denied a chance to contest the 2006 and 2011 elections

After gaining popularity as an anti-corruption crusader and as a person who took up the cause of the masses, the VS camp was confident about the Polit Bureau giving a ticket to the leader to contest the 2006 elections. However, the Polit Bureau, after facing stiff opposition from the Pinarayi faction, decided not to field VS in the elections. Huge crowds of VS supporters took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction and forced the Polit Bureau to re-consider its decision.  After much political drama, the Polit Bureau had to reverse its decision of not giving a ticket to VS. However, the party gained from the popular image of VS as a mass leader and won the 2006 elections comfortably. The same sequence of events played out again in the 2011 Assembly Elections but this time, the party lost. 

5. The Murder of TP Chandrasekharan in 2012

The political murder of TP Chandrasekharan in Onchiyam, Kozhikode district on May 4, 2012, led to a new chapter in the infamous factional feud between VS and Pinarayi. Chandrasekharan defected from CPI(M) to form his own party - Revolutionary Marxist Party. While the Congress-led UDF blamed the CPI(M) for the murder, both Achuthanandan and Pinarayi used the killing to increase their leverage in the party. Taking contrarian views, the former State Secretary referred to Chandrasekharan as a "traitor", while Achuthanandan defended the creation of a new party. Drawing parallels between the RMP and the CPI(M), Achuthanandan said that the existence of CPI (M) was possible only because they split from the Communist Part of India (CPI). He announced in public that he saw similarities between Pinarayi and S.A. Dange, the Chairman of CPI who was seen as an antagonist in the split and was later expelled from the party.

6. The Kerala CPI(M) Meet 2015

The CPI(M) state conference in Alappuzha in 2015 was full of dramatic twists and turns with the CPI (M) founding member and former Chief Minister VS staging a walkout of the venue when the annual report was being read out. The report, which was filled with references to “anti-party activities” of the veteran was said to be prepared by the official faction, led by Pinarayi. Achuthanandan, the only surviving member of the founding team of CPI, was seen walking to the general secretary of the party, bidding him “goodbye” and leaving the venue. A resolution was passed against the veteran in the state meet and Vijayan went on to call Achuthanandan a “factionalist”.  

News, views and interviews- Follow our election coverage.

Click TN Election Special

Click Kerala Election Special

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.