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The fight to capture power in the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI) has intensified after three of the senior most leaders in the state unit have opened a war front with accusations between them. State secretary Kanam Rajendran who is believed to continue at the helm of the party for a third term is facing tough opposition from the district and state level leaders for the first time in over a decade. The CPI state conference is scheduled to be held in Thiruvananthapuram from September 30 to October 3.

Two-term secretary Kanam has been gearing up for his continuation in the post. The Kanam Rajendran-led official faction had successfully implemented the age cap criteria, a guideline put forward by the central leadership which stipulated 75 years as the upper age limit for the state executive and state council. It also suggests 65 years as the upper age limit for district secretaries and district councils.

In the state executive and state councils, several leaders had opposed and expressed their apprehension about the age cap. According to them, the decision was illogical as most of the party workers and leaders who are still active in the organization and parliamentary level would be out of the party. But the state council decided to go forward with the decision ignoring most of such sentiments.

In many district conferences, there was severe criticism against the age cap but the state leadership silenced the rebellious voices with an iron fist. Once implemented in the state conference to be held in Thiruvananthapuram, the age cap would affect a large section of leaders most importantly seniors like K.E. Ismail and C. Divakaran as they have already passed the upper age limit, but the state leadership had successfully implemented the age cap at the lower level.

But vocalizing the grievances of the large number of leaders, K.E. Ismail and C. Divakaran had come out openly against the age cap being made mandatory for leadership. This has surprised the leadership that thought of an easy crossover.

According to them and the sections opposing the age cap, it should only be implemented with the party Congress's approval. 'To implement the age cap, the party constitution has to be amended first', said C. Divakaran. K.E. Ismail had in an interview also criticized the state leadership's move.

According to him, the age cap is not mandatory and age should not be the basis for the ability to work. It should rather be the leaders' health, he also said. Kanam had brushed away the charges and said that the mandatory age cap was decided by the national council and the state council also approved it. He also questions the rebel leaders' wisdom and pointed out that these leaders also are part of the state council and national councils which had decided to implement the age cap.

Meanwhile, the central leadership is watching the developments in Kerala carefully. As the only state where a communist party-led government is in power and the lone state unit which still had a powerful organizational structure, the central leadership does not want any mishap that may disturb the power balance in the state unit.

The occurrence of a factional feud which was absent in the state unit is a challenge for the leadership. But some central leaders have reportedly raised their apprehension to the leadership about the way in which the state unit has implemented the age cap. Besides Kerala, Odisha is the only state unit which had implemented the age cap.

According to a central Secretariat member, the age cap is not mandatory. 'It's only a guideline put forward by the national council. Some states had implemented it, while some others have not. CPI has not taken a decision on this subject. The final word is of the party Congress, he said on condition of anonymity. Some leaders were of the view that it's because of a section of the state leader's unyielding character that the chaos has happened.

The feud between the leaders has also opened the fissures wide open. At least six of the district committees had resentments against the present state leadership, especially against Kanam Rajendran. In the Kottayam, Kollam and Idukki district conferences, the representatives had not accepted the state leadership's candidate for the post of district secretary. Kottayam being the home ground of Kanam and Kollam being the strongest bastion of the party, those opposed to the Kanam line turned the tide of events and thus caused a setback to the state secretary. The representatives for the state conference are selected at the district conferences.

The resentment amongst the lower units against the unilateral implementation of the age cap may reflect in the state conference. There is also criticism against state secretary Kanam Rajendran for being soft to the CPM leadership. They accused Kanam had reduced CPI to a junior partner of CPM. 'If the rebels openly oppose the age cap in the state conference, the central leadership will definitely have a say in that', said a state executive member to Madhyamam Online English. 'If they successfully convince the central leadership that the majority of the representatives are against it, then the party Congress will have the final decision', he added. 'This may also lead to a situation where a resolution be moved against the mandatory age cap', he also said.

If all goes not well for the state secretary Kanam Rajendran, then the senior leader K.E. Ismail who has a strong following in the party may emerge as a competitor for the leadership post.

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TAGS:Kanam RajendranCPICPMCommunist Party of IndiaKE Ismail
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