Thiruvananthapuram: With the Communist Party of India-Marxist`s (CPI-M`s) Kerala unit holding its once in three years conference in February, attention has once again swivelled to the tensions between party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and former chief minister VS Achuthanandan.
The branch level meetings are over and the local committee meetings are beginning in the run up to the conference that will also decide whether Vijayan will be elected as secretary for the fourth consecutive time. Waiting once again in the wings is former chief minister and leader of opposition VS Achuthanandan, who is going strong at 87.
The CPI-M in Kerala has long been divided between the two leaders and, over the years, it is believed that Achuthanandan`s position may be weakening.
But politics is a strange game. The party state conference is held once in three years and at the last three meetings Achuthanandan managed to hold on though many thought he would be cut to size by the majority faction led by Vijayan, 20 years his junior.
The Feb 7-10 meeting in Thiruvananthapuram may be another test of nerves. According to the schedule, the area committee meetings would begin from Nov 15 and the district meetings from Dec 1 to Jan 12. By then, party workers said, the picture would be very clear on what the future holds for the two warring CPI-M stalwarts.
The feud began about a decade ago. The Vijayan faction got the official tag and the Achuthanandan loyalists came to be known as unofficial group, with the former ahead in absolute numbers.
An early flashpoint were the May 2006 assembly polls when Achuthanandan was first denied a seat to contest. This March he was again denied the party ticket. And, in an action replay of five years ago, strong street protests and a media onslaught against the official faction saw the politburo intervening to get Achuthanandan the ticket.
"Achuthanandan is a wily old leader who has seen it all and he will play the waiting game and see how the party meetings go. Of course, he will try to play his cards in a clever manner and if he is able to bring a divide in the official faction, then it could work out to his advantage," said a top CPI-M leader on the condition of anonymity.
Everybody will be keenly watching whether Vijayan manages a fourth term as secretary.
As things stand, his faction includes many heavyweights. Leaders like Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Thomas Issac and MA Baby, currently in the good books of even Achuthanandan, could however tilt the balance.
The rivalry between Achuthanandan and Vijayan has been troubling the party for a while. In 2007, a year after Achuthanandan became chief minister, the CPI-M ousted him and Vijayan from the politburo.
Both were taken back. But as they fought again, it was Achuthanandan who was reprimanded and again removed from the politburo in 2009.