The split in the Kerala Communist party of India - Marxist grew wider on Wednesday, with Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan defying the politburo line on Governor R S Gavai's decision to give sanction to prosecute Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in a corruption case, saying it neither shocked nor surprised him.
Ignoring the party politburo's stance that the sanction was politically motivated and unconstitutional, the chief minister, who is at loggerheads with Vijayan, told a press conference "I don't consider this as a great surprise. There have been precedents of governors having taken decisions like this using their discretionary powers after studying the matters under their consideration."
Achuthanandan's stand amounted to virtual rejection of the campaign by his party and cabinet colleagues that the Governor had acted under political pressure by rejecting the state cabinet's recommendation against prosecuting Vijayan.
The position taken by Achuthanandan is likely to further escalate the intra-party squabbling in the CPI-M, whose Left Democratic Front suffered reverses in the recent Lok Sabha elections in the state. On Tuesday, his cabinet colleague and Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan attacked the Governor for his sanction, saying it has raised constitutional issues.
Refusing to term Gavai's action as 'serious breach of constitutional norms', a view taken by the party and some of his ministerial colleagues, the 86-year-old Marxist veteran said he was not 'surprised' by the Governor's decision as there had been similar precedents in the country. Achuthanandan said the cabinet did not discuss the letter and he had asked his ministerial colleagues to study it.
The comments by Achuthanandan come two days after the governor's nod to prosecute Vijayan, regarding the awarding of contracts to Canadian company SNC Lavalin, for renovation of hydro power projects in 1998. Vijayan, the power minister then, is being sought to be arraigned by the Central Bureau of Investigation as the ninth accused.
"There have also been references made by the Supreme Court in similar situations," Achuthanandan said while responding to a specific query about whether he thought the governor had violated Constitutional norms, as alleged by his party leaders in the state.
He said the copy of the governor's communication was placed before the cabinet and it would be discussed in the next meeting, allowing time for his colleagues to study it. Asked about the statements of his cabinet colleagues criticising the Governor, he said, "I have not seen them".
Achuthanandan found instant support from Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Oomen Chandy, who said the chief minister's position was correct and those who found fault with the Governor had been proved wrong. While the position of the party politburo had been that the case was politically motivated, Achuthanandan had never come in defence of his beleaguered colleague.
Even when the state cabinet considered the advocate general's opinion, that there was no ground to prosecute Vijayan in the case, Achuthanandan had reportedly struck a dissenting voice. On this count, Achuthananandan had to face dissent in the party state secretariat meet, in which some members went to the extent of demanding his resignation.