The coming days are going to be crucial for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in general -- and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in particular -- with the state party conference scheduled to be held in Thrissur from February 22 to 25.The CPI-M's current leadership may have successfully silenced dissidents but questions have cropped up over governance issues faced by the government headed by the party.Under the Vijayan-Balakrishnan duo, the CPI-M has, in the past few years, been successful in eliminating the deep-rooted factionalism which, at one point of time, had threatened the very existence of the party.Former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who led the revolt against the then state Secretary and now Chief Minister Vijayan, has been completely sidelined after the last party conference in Alappuzha three years ago.Analysts say the challenge before Vijayan and Balakrishnan at the conference is of managing the perceptions of nearly 500 delegates on the performance of the 21-month-old CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government which, some in the party feel, has not been able to deliver what it had promised.And for Balakrishnan, it is also going to revolve around how he faces up to the delegates at a time the business dealings of his two businessmen sons in Dubai have made it to the front pages of newspapers since last month, embarrassing the party.In the run-up to the party conference, both Vijayan and Balakrishnan ensured that they took part in all the 14 district conferences.
This was seen as a move basically meant to nip in the bud any potential trouble-makers, who could start a discussion against either Vijayan or Balakrishnan -- both of whom hail from Kannur district and enjoy a good working relationship."This is perhaps for the first time that so much caution is being exercised by a state party Secretary or by the Chief Minister, ahead of the conference. There is, of course, no harm in being engaged so as to see things go smoothly."In the party, delegates are free to speak out and maybe the top leadership is aware that if more and more people express their opinion against the present leadership, then it could spell trouble for Balakrishnan, in particular," a top source who is in the know of things in the CPI-M told IANS on condition of anonymity.If things go smoothly at the conference, Balakrishnan may get a second three-year term, which he has been wanting -- though it could be curtains for him if there is a concerted move against him for the sins of his now controversial businessmen sons.As far as Vijayan is concerned, his stock too has taken a beating on account of what is being seen by critics as an "insipid" performance and speculation that he is mulling a cabinet reshuffle to bring in experienced legislators to tone up work in the government.The biggest advantage for Vijayan and Balakrishnan is that, till now, they have been able to ensure that there has been no open dissent against them."If they are able to maintain that in the coming days, then the duo can be satisfied that their undisputed control over the cadre-based party will continue," the source said.