CPM drops VS from Politburo, gives Pinarayi clean chit

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat got his way today as Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan was "removed" from the party Politburo on charges of "indiscipline" and "violating" organisational principle. Kerala state CPM secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, the other actor in the long-running factional feud in the state party unit, got away without any action against him.

Barely an hour after the party announced his demotion, Achuthanandan indicated that he may be down but not out. The veteran Marxist, who, having sensed the direction in which the disscussions were heading, skipped the second day of the central committee meeting today, said his stand on the SNC-Lavalin graft case remained unchanged despite the party concluding that Vijayan "was not involved in any corrupt practice whatsoever".

Although he said he "accepted" the central committee's decision, he remained silent on speculation that he would resign in protest, worrying a section of the leadership.

While the party has taken strong action against stalwarts like Nripen Chakraborty and P Ramamurthy in the past, this is the first time that a Chief Minister has been removed from the Politburo. The only relief Achuthanandan got was that the central committee is learnt to have directed the state unit to accept his authority as CM and not provoke him unnecessarily.

Sources close to Achuthanandan said he skipped the central committee meeting today because of a minor variation in his blood pressure. It is learnt that Karat called him up to explain the party's decision while senior central committee member Suneet Chopra and his Politburo colleagues Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan dropped by at Kerala House to meet him after the decision was announced.

With the state party unit seeking his exit, Karat had proposed Achuthanandan's removal from the Chief Minister's post. However, following stiff opposition from several members, it was decided that Achuthanandan would be allowed to continue as CM but would be dropped from the Politburo. The central committee accepted this decision.

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