Pinarayi Vijayan faces criticism within CPI(M) after election losses

The state committee noted that the CPI(M) suffered significant vote losses in many of its strongholds. Pinarayi Vijayan was personally criticised for his behaviour.
Pinarayi Vijayan
Pinarayi VijayanFacebook page/Pinarayi Vijayan
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In April 2024, a few days before the Lok Sabha polls, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was asked a question about ‘self-criticism’ by senior journalist MV Nikesh Kumar, the editor-in-chief of Reporter TV. Pinarayi immediately retorted, “What kind of self-criticism should I do for the kind of degrading behaviour that you lot [the media] adopt?” While Pinarayi’s reply was celebrated by CPI(M) party sympathisers, criticism has now also emerged from within the party, which the CM will not be able to ignore for long.

At the state committee meeting of the CPI(M) held from June 17 to June 19 in Thiruvananthapuram, the party analysed its poll losses, noting that the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front won only one out of 20 LS seats in Kerala. During the meeting, criticism was directed at the CM and his conduct.

Though Pinarayi has repeatedly claimed there was no anti-incumbency, sources say that during the meeting there was discussion on how anti-incumbency was a major factor behind the party’s defeat. The state committee noted that the CPI(M) suffered significant vote loss in many of its strongholds. Pinarayi was personally criticised for his behaviour, including the personal foreign trips with his family and his intolerance during public meetings. One such instance mentioned was Pinarayi publicly admonishing someone for minor issues like technical glitches in a microphone.

Another major issue highlighted was the EP Jayarajan controversy that surfaced as the elections neared. In April 2024, controversial middleman TG Nandakumar and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sobha Surendran made allegations against EP Jayarajan, the LDF convener and a senior leader of the CPI(M), claiming that he tried to strike a deal with the BJP on the Thrissur Lok Sabha seat. Sobha alleged that Jayarajan held talks with BJP’s Prakash Javadekar.

There was also strong criticism about the inefficiency of the Home Ministry. “There were discussions that the Home Ministry is being controlled by others besides Pinarayi Vijayan, who also holds the Home portfolio. A major issue discussed is the government’s disregard for public perception,” said a source within the party.

The source also mentioned that the government’s attitude towards the media created a bad impression. “It was pointed out in the meeting that it is not appropriate for a Left government to file cases against journalists,” he added.

Some leaders had expected the party to win at least five seats in the LS elections, but it managed to secure only one. In traditional CPI(M) strongholds such as Alappuzha and Kannur, votes shifted to the BJP.

Issues with the distribution of welfare pensions were highlighted as another major reason for the anti-incumbency. Additionally, there were discussions that certain leaders were attempting to suppress KK Shailaja’s political career by fielding her in the Vadakara constituency.

Other sources from the party said that during various district committee meetings, members raised concerns about the party trying to appease Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, the largest Muslim organisation in Kerala, by inviting them to party-organised programmes such as the anti-CAA agitation. Some members felt that such attempts at appeasement could alienate the party’s support base among the Christian and Ezhava communities.

Despite the growing discontent and calls for change, Pinarayi Vijayan has not responded to any of the criticism.

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