Tension within the ranks haunts UDF and LDF too
Thiruvananthapuram: Oommen Chandy vs Ramesh Chennithala; VS Achuthanandan vs Pinayari Vijayan. The more things change, the more they remain the same in Kerala politics, with an uneasy calm in place as traditional rivalries continue within the two main groupings, United Democratic Front (UDF) and Left Democratic Front (LDF).
For the last three decades and more, the political pendulum has swung between the Congress-led UDF - which is ruling right now - and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led LDF. The UDF has eight allies and the latter six.
Right now, the UDF is in power but only with a slender lead of just six seats in the 140-member Kerala Assembly.
Probably never before has the situation seemed as vitiated as now. And not because of problems between the UDF and the LDF but because of tensions within the ranks.
Trouble in the UDF started soon after cabinet formation talks began last year. Chandy was made chief minister much to the chagrin of Chennithala supporters. Since then, the party has been divided between the Chandy and Chennithala camps. The unrest has grown as the long delayed organisational revamp in the party has not been finalised yet.
In the LDF, former chief minister and Leader of Opposition Achuthanandan has upped the ante against his traditional rival, CPI-M state secretary Vijayan. The rift widened following the brutal murder in May of former CPI-M leader TP Chandrasekharan by hired gangsters allegedly at the behest of district level CPI-M leaders in Kannur and Kozhikode.
The CPI-M suffered loss of face when Vijayan said the party had nothing to do with the murder. Achuthanandan too jumped into the fray and said that "no one eating rice in Kerala" would buy Vijayan's theory.
This saw the CPI-M central leadership intervene and, after much discussion, ask Achuthanandan to apologise for going against the party.
But he is yet to do that.
Almost a dozen of the 76 arrested in the case are known local leaders of the party.
The party, with its image seriously tarnished, was in for more shock when Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan and legislator TV Rajesh were arrested for involvement in another murder case. They are now behind bars in Kannur.
A day after Jayarajan's arrest on Aug 1, the CPI-M called for a statewide shutdown. The LDF's second biggest ally, the CPI, said openly that there was no such need.
It has been open war since between the two Communist parties, with each accusing the other of washing dirty linen in public and raking up old stories. The CPI has asked senior CPI-M leader Vaikom Viswan to step down as LDF convenor.
The CPI-M is trying to stem the damage by organising party meetings at various levels to give their cadres much-needed confidence and send out the message that all is well. And all that was happening, it says, was political witch hunting by the Chandy government.
Every which way, both the groupings have been left badly bruised by differences within their ranks.