With the CPI-M preparing for its state conference next month, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is all set to ensure there is no one to challenge him in the state and he has complete control over the party – and will be hoping his clout will give him a larger say in the partys national affairs.
Ahead of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state conference in Thrissur from February 22 to 25, he has ensured that his is the final word in all the 14 districts.
Gone are the days when the party was deeply divided between Vijayan and former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who, even though he led the campaign from the 2016 assembly elections, was upstaged by the former and prevented from occupying for the Chief Minister's chair a second time.
Since then, it has been Vijayan all the way, with only a small faction left with the veteran Achuthanandan.
If one looks back over the years, unlike in other parties, the final word in the CPI-M has been that of the party's State Secretary, to whom the Chief Minister often played second fiddle.
The one reason why Vijayan has been able to have an iron grip on the party is his 17-year uninterrupted reign as the State Secretary from 1998 to 2015, during which he was able to edge out even the hugely-popular Achuthanandan.
On account of his long tenure, he has been able to pick and choose his aides and if Achuthanandan had some sections of the party with him at the time of the 2015 state party conference, Vijayan has had a free run this time around. By the time the 14 district party meetings are over later this month, there will be only one leader at the helm and it would be the 72-year-old Vijayan.
Vijayan managed to do this when he saw to it that Achuthanandan was kept out of the district meetings. Another Politburo member from the state who has been sidelined this time is M.A. Baby.
The present state Secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is close to Vijayan and also a Politburo member, will, in all likelihood, get a second term at the state party conference.
All eyes are now on the constitution of the state committee and state secretariat, besides the selection of the around 175 members to attend the CPI-M's 22nd Party Congress in Hyderabad in April.
With the party's West Bengal unit losing its sheen, it's going to be an added bonus for the Chief Minister, whose relationship with CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechuri is not all that warm.
Much like senior party leader and former General Secretary Prakash Karat, who is from Kerala, Vijayan is strongly opposed to any truck with the Congress for elections. Yechuri, on the other hand, believes aligning with the Congress is the need of the hour given the rise and rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party and other right wing forces.
The question now is: Will Vijayan will be able to consolidate his position and play the kingmaker in Hyderabad?
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)