Suspension of Sasi for six months from party is being seen as face-saving measure.
The Kerala CPM’s suspension of a senior party MLA for six months from the party on grounds of sexual misconduct is being seen as a face-saving measure. The party decision not to strip the leader of his MLA post leaves behind a host of unanswered questions. The action against party’s Shoranur MLA, P.K. Sasi comes almost three months after a Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) district committee member complained that the legislator tried to molest her at the party office at Mannarkkad in Palakkad district.
From the very beginning, the district committee and Sasi had vehemently denied the accusations. When reports about the district leadership bargaining for a compromise with the complainant started appearing in local dailies, Sasi and fellow comrades admitted that there was indeed a complaint. Still, Sasi put up a brave front, accusing some vested interests with plotting to destroy him politically.
He even boasted that “communist energy” would see him through the crisis. Finally, the state leadership, which too had initially feigned ignorance of the existence of any such complaint, was forced to set up a two-member committee to look into the charges after the worker wrote personal letters to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury. This was after her letter to Politburo member and champion of women’s rights in the country, Brinda Karat, failed to elicit any response. Later the party gave the lame excuse that she could not read it since the letter was in Malayalam.
As if Brinda Karat couldn’t consult friend and Politburo comrade, S. Ramachandran Pillai who hails from Kerala and can read and write Malayalam. Even after the committee had submitted a report, the leadership dragged its feet, delaying action. The reason given for the delay was that the leadership was preoccupied first with the floods and then with the ongoing protests over women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple.
Sasi’s suspension is reminiscent of the party decision in the not so distant past expelling powerful district secretaries P. Sasi of Kannur and Gopi Kottamurikkal of Ernakulam on moral grounds. Interestingly, both of them have been rehabilitated and are active in the party.
However the women have gone into oblivion. Since Sasi is also going to be reinstated without doubt after six months, if not in the same glory, CPM’s claim that the woman worker had now “got justice” doesn’t hold much water.
According to the party, there was no need for Sasi to quit his MLA post, thereby ruling out the possibility that he would cease to become an active worker of the party. He is also the Palakkad district president of the party trade union wing, CITU. As an MLA, Sasi can participate in all decision-making, attend the meetings of the CPM legislative party and will also involve in all other party activities as a sitting legislator.
Most recently he had led a party “Renaissance March” in the district, ironically, upholding women’s right to enter Sabarimala. Still the party claims the act of suspension is “historic”.
Now that Sasi has been suspended, P.K. Sreemathi, one of the members of the probe panel, hoped that the woman won’t approach the police. “She has now got justice,” the Kannur MP told newspersons. When questioned about this contradiction, one of the senior leaders of the party said “suspension” itself was a major punishment as per party Constitution.
According to him, being a member of the party was more important than being an MLA. When pointed out that the BJP in Uttarakhand had recently sacked its general secretary after a woman party worker accused him of sexually harassing her, the CPM leader said, “You don’t understand our party, we are different from the bourgeois parties, you see.”
It is a known fact that Sasi belongs to the official group represented by Chie Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and state party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, and had played a decisive role in ousting supporters of veteran V.S. Achuthanandan from the district committee at the height of factionalism in the party when Pinarayi Vijayan was CPM state secretary. In this context it is interesting to note that it was after Achuthanandan shot off a letter to Yechury demanding stern action against Sasi that the state leadership hastily announced its decision to suspend the MLA.
Achuthanandan still has a large following in the Malabar region as he represents Malampuzha constituency in Palakkad district. Hence, these developments within the party are seen as the revival of factional feud in the state CPM.
Whether the veteran will demand the resignation of Sasi as MLA is to be seen. The woman in question has supposedly expressed her satisfaction over the action taken against Sasi.
But then she hasn’t so far revealed her identity publicly, though many in the party know her antecedents. They point out that she is unlikely to break ranks and approach the police for final justice.
The Kerala Women’s Commission, headed by a CPM central committee member, was of no help in the past.
The CPM central committee meeting this month is to endorse the action taken by the party. Yechury and company have no other option but to go by the state leadership as they are dependent solely on the Kerala unit for survival.