CPI-M will keep veterans out to blood new talent in Kerala election

Twenty-three of the party's MLAs, including four senior ministers and the outgoing speaker, will sit this election out

Thomas Isaac, off-budget borrowings
According to Dr Thomas Issac, the Enforcement Directorate has been targeting KIIFB for political reasons | Pic: PTI

It’s almost certain that the Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) candidate list will be dominated by new names this time.

Following the Communist Party of India (CPI), the second largest party in the coalition, the CPI-M too has decided not to field legislators who have completed two or more consecutive terms, which means 23 of its MLAs, including four senior ministers and the outgoing speaker of the house, will sit this one out.

The CPI-M state committee has zeroed in on candidates for 80 per cent of the seats, and the list will be finalised in the next few days after consultations with district units. The party is set to contest in 87 seats.

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Dr TM Thomas Isaac, the finance minister and four-time MLA from Alappuzha, is among those who will not be fighting the election. Dr Isaac is the man behind the imaginative yet controversial investment and funding initiative, Kerala Infrastructure and Investment Fund Board, through which this government financed almost all its major development projects. He will be missed the most if the LDF is voted to power again.

“Ours is a communist party and we do not rely only on some particular leaders; we rely on policies. That’s why the party has decided to field new faces. Of course winnability is important, but we have many leaders who are yet to come into electoral politics and can deliver when given the opportunity. So this should be seen as a welcome move,” said MB Rajesh, former MP and one of the new faces who is almost certain to be in the list.

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Even though the Alappuzha district committee of the party was keen to field Dr Isaac again, and had requested the state committee for an exemption, the leadership was in no mood to budge, it seems.

G Sudhakaran, an eight-time MLA and strongman from Alappuzha, will also miss the bus. Arguably one of the most efficient ministers in the cabinet, in terms of performance, he will campaign across the state. Sudhakaran was said to be often at odds with Dr Isaac and the two were bitter rivals on their home turf. The district unit wanted him to fight the election as well, but the leadership demurred.

C Raveendranath, the minister for education, another popular face in the cabinet, will also not be in the fray. The college professor turned politician and a three-time MLA from Puthukkad constituency in Trissur district had won with a record majority last time.

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The departure of these three senior leaders clears the way for EP Jayarajan, the minister for industries, to take over the party leadership in the state, according to sources. Unlike the others, EP, as he is known, is not a popular face and has a history of courting controversy. He was asked to step down following allegations of nepotism, involving his nephew, and reinstated only after a clean chit by the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau. Sources said that he is tipped to become the state secretary this year. A Vijayaraghavan is currently acting secretary after the state secretary went on leave citing health issues a few months ago.

The speaker of the assembly, P Sreeramakrishnan, who has been in news for his alleged links with Swapna Suresh, the key accused in the gold smuggling case, is also a three-term MLA from Ponani, in Malappuram district. Interestingly Sreeramakrishnan has been summoned for questioning on March 12, by the customs, in connection with the dollar smuggling, reverse hawala case.

“As far as we are concerned, SRK [Sreeramakrishnan] is the best candidate available for Ponani, but if the party sticks to the term rule, we will have to think of someone else. It will be tough, but the political conditions are really favourable,” said a leader from the district.

AK Balan, a Dalit leader and minister for culture, will also not be contesting. The central committee member of the party is also a four-time MLA. He was the minister for electricity in the VS Achuthananthan government in 2006.

Others who will sit out the election include popular leaders such as A Pradeepkumar of Kozhikkod, KV Abdulkhader of Guruvayoor and Raju Abraham of Ranni.

The change of guard is not as smooth as is being presented by CPI-M leaders. Voices of dissent have already been raised from inside the party, especially in Alappuzha, home of the two stalwarts, Dr Isaac and Sudhakaran. One will have to wait and see how the party is going to tackle this issue in a factionalism-ridden district like Alappuzha, which has a long tradition of revolutionary battles.

In the CPI, too, changes will be evident with ministers such as VS Sunilkumar (agriculture), P Thilothaman (food and civil supplies) and K Raju (forest) not getting tickets. Sunilkumar, the youngest of the three and a popular three-time MLA, represents the Trissur constituency. It will be very tough for the front to retain the constituency if he does not contest, according to LDF supporters, who nonetheless said they would support the party’s decision.