The CPM in Kerala has gone for a major overhaul of the party top brass by bringing in its central committee member A Vijayaraghavan to replace Kodiyeri Balakrishnan as the state secretary after the latter stepped down from the post following his son’s arrest in connection with an Enforcement Directorate case. The rejig, though on an interim basis, can be seen as an outcome of the political turmoil CPM is undergoing at the moment and a desperate move by the party to save face in view of the fast-approaching local body and Assembly elections.

Vijaraghavan, who now replaces a leader who served CPM as the state secretary for the past five years, has a big job at hand as he sets out to rejuvenate the party which hit the rock bottom like never before in the last Loksabha polls and is searching for a hiding place from the gold smuggling allegations against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his office. If the party decides to make his interim role permanent, Vijayaraghavan, who is a Central Committee member, will face one of the toughest challenges as CPM party chief.

For poll pundits, Vijayaraghavan is a surprise entrant to the role considering his present political stature in the party. Following his son Bineesh Kodiyeri’s arrest, Balakrishnan was expected to resign as the state secretary, but when popular leaders like M V Govindan of Kannur were in prime position to succeed him, nobody thought Vijayaraghavan would gatecrash.

CPM strongly opposes reports that Balakrishnan’s resignation came following the arrest of Bineesh, saying that he is staying off due to health issues. The Opposition parties, which are not ready to buy that claim, said that the major leaders have links with the recent developments in Balakrishnan’s family .

The CPM state secretary post always remains one of the hot seats with a lot of challenging political responsibilities in Kerala. Vijayaraghavan would be carrying an added pressure of leading CPM and LDF, especially when a section of the party leaders are still coming to terms with his ascent to the post. Apart from leading the party and the front in the upcoming elections, he might have to head them in the coming Assembly election too.

Vijayaraghavan should ensure the support of the leaders like Govindan, Thomas Issac and E P Jayarajan if has to have a smooth tenure at the head. E P Jayarajan is the third strongest leader in Kerala at present and will be eyeing the vacant Polit Bureau membership from Kerala. Vijayaraghavan’s new role is likely to upset his plan to elevate himself as the next big person after the Vijayan-Kodiyeri era in the party. This means Vijayaraghavan would need to face the challenges from the party and Opposition to survive in the post. The question is whether he can successfully tackle it with the blessings of his mentor Pinarayi Vijayan.