The CPI(M) is facing an unprecedented challenge in Kerala’s Kannur district, traditionally a stronghold of the Left party.
The challenge, however, is not external. Two party heavyweights are involved in a slugfest, levelling charges and countercharges at each other. The accusations range from Benami investments to maintaining hit squads to eliminate political opponents.
The bitter fight between EP Jayarajan and P Jayarajan, fuelled by personal animosity, has dented the image of the ruling LDF and its principal constituent, the CPI(M).
According to party sources, the CPI(M) politburo is now looking into the allegations and counter allegations. The party is likely to constitute an internal committee to probe the charges.
While EP Jayarajan is the LDF convener and a central committee member of the CPI(M), P Jayarajan is a senior state committee member of the party and vice chairman of Kerala Khadi Board, a post equivalent to that of a cabinet minister.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and party state secretary MV Govindan have not made any attempt to defend EP Jayarajan, who faces charges of making a benami investment. Indications are that he would face disciplinary action, including a possible demotion in the organisation.
EP Jayarajan is now on an extended leave from the LDF convener post, citing health reasons.
However, party sources felt that the real reason for his displeasure was the party’s decision against accommodating him in the second Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet and excluding him from the politburo. He has been staying away from the party and LDF affairs since 6 October.
He is also upset with the party promoting his junior, Govindan, as the state secretary.
Media reports said P Jayarajan levelled charges of benami investments against EP Jayarajan at a recent state committee meeting. Govindan expressed the party’s willingness to investigate the allegations.
Contract gangs and smugglers
On Monday, 26 December, EP Jayarajan hit back. Leaders close to him said he would ‘rejoin’ duty as the LDF convener by attending a CPI(M) state secretariat meeting on Friday, 30 December.
Meanwhile, confidants of EP Jayarajan are sending several complaints against P Jayarajan to the state committee and the politburo.
The complainants accused P Jayarajan of fostering contract gangs and backing gold smugglers. It was also alleged that he diverted election funds raised when he unsuccessfully contested from the Vadakara Lok Sabha constituency.
Sources close to EP Jayarajan told South First that he has dropped his earlier plan to quit the LDF convener post. He would remain active in politics, resisting attempts to sideline him.
P Jayarajan has the tacit support of Vijayan and Govindan. When asked if any action would be initiated against EP Jayarayan, the chief minister replied in the negative. Digressing, he spoke about the biting cold in Delhi. He was talking to reporters in the national capital.
Also read: Nepotism and Kerala CPI(M)
Two leaders, two attacks
Before the feud became public a week ago, party workers in the state viewed both leaders as hardcore communists who had made several sacrifices to uphold the interests of the party.
EP Jayarajan was shot at on board a train while returning from the CPI(M) party congress in Chandigarh on 12 April 1995. Two goons, allegedly hired by the rival Congress party in Kannur, were behind the attack that left him grievously injured.
Though investigations failed to unravel the real motive for the attack, a bullet is still lodged in EP Jayarajan’s body.
In the case of P Jayarajan, a group of RSS workers barged into his house and attacked him with swords after exploding crude bombs to create an atmosphere of terror on 25 August 1999, Thiruvonam day.
Jayarajan’s arms were almost severed in the attack. He underwent a complex surgery to suture them back.
Even outside Kannur party cadres are viewing the tussle between the two leaders with disbelief.
Fallout of course correction
Interestingly, the friction between the two leaders is after the much-hyped course correction document, now being discussed at various levels in the party. The document, among other things, stressed zero-tolerance against bourgeois tendencies, which have seeped into the party.
Party sources confirmed that P Jayarajan used the state committee’s discussion on the correction document to level charges against EP Jayarajan.
The charges included amassing disproportionate wealth and investing it in a high-end Ayurveda resort — now being completed at Morazha village in Kannur — through a benamidar.
P Jayarajan alleged in the meeting that EP Jayarajan misused his former position as the industries minister and the present position of LDF convener to amass wealth and invest it in the posh resort. It was also pointed out that his wife Indira and son Jaison are director board members of the resort.
Indira is the sister of PK Sreemathi, a CPI(M) central committee member and a former Lok Sabha member.
Local media reported that P Jayarajan claimed in the state committee meeting that his allegations were based on verifiable facts and sought concrete corrective steps in the wake of the party adopting the correction document.
Govindan sought a written complaint to initiate a proper enquiry. The Kannur strongman obliged.
Known as number two in the first Vijayan government, EP Jayarajan is now finding it tough to counter the allegation.
Making matters worse, BJP leader and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said he would facilitate an enforcement directorate investigation against EP Jayarajan.
Meanwhile, Kerala’s opposition leader VD Satheesan challenged Vijayan to order a judicial investigation into the allegation instead of the customary internal probe by the CPI(M).
When asked, P Jayarajan told the media that he could not reveal matters discussed in the state committee.
However, he dropped sufficient hints to reveal his mind: The party should initiate corrective measures against the unhealthy trends among the leaders.
Vaideham: The controversial project
P Jayarajan alleged in the state committee meeting that his namesake had invested at least ₹30 crore in the resort project. The money, he alleged, was raised by misusing his positions.
Though formally inaugurated in April 2021 when EP Jayarajan was the minister, the resort is yet to be fully operational.
The Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, a popular science and environmental protection association that enjoys the CPI(M)’s support, had organised several protests against the construction of the resort, saying it was built by razing an environmentally fragile hill.
Using his powers as a senior CPI(M) leader, EP Jayarajan survived the charge.
In 2014, a company, Kannur Ayurvedic Medical Care Private Limited, was floated. The registered address was that of a commercial complex close to EP Jayarajan’s residence.
The company is promoting the Ayurveda resort, Vaideham. EP Jayarajan’s son Jaison is the managing director, holding a maximum share of 2,500. A contractor who constructed several CPI(M) establishments and institutions along with the houses of many top party leaders, is another director.
Starting with a working capital of ₹3 crore, the company can now raise to ₹10 crore by selling its shares. Going by the documents, the company has collected ₹6.65 crore till now.
Meanwhile, the EP Jayarajan camp targeted P Jayarajan by exposing his links with notorious criminal gangs in Kannur, which often turn into hit squads annihilating party enemies.
They also accused P Jayarajan of being the ‘guardian’ of several gangs engaged in smuggling gold from the Middle East to Kannur.
Even when extreme factional tendencies existed in the Kerala unit of CPI(M) at the height Vijayan-VS Achuthanandan feud, the Kannur unit presented a united image.
Both EP Jayarajan and P Jayarajan had then helped Vijayan to wrest control of the party machinery in the state from Achuthanandan.
Now, they are fighting an unprecedented war, and the party will have to pay a heavy price for it.
“In all probability, Vijayan might have forsaken his right-hand comrade EP Jayarajan, and that might have given courage to P Jayarajan to raise such an allegation,” said former CPI(M) member and political observer Azad Malayattil.
“In all likelihood, EP Jayarajan would be further sidelined. His counterattacks on P Jayarajan will not yield any desired results. Vijayan’s might over the party will prevail,” he added.