The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Kerala unit secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Friday went on leave for medical treatment, The Hindu reported, citing the party’s statement. Balakrishnan has been receiving treatment for cancer.

The party has not clarified how long the politician would be on leave. Left Democratic Front convenor M Vijayaraghavan will take over as the CPI(M) Kerala unit secretary in Balakrishnan’s absence.

The development came a month after Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri’s arrest for his involvement in a narcotics case and for allegedly funding illegal activities. On Wednesday, Bineesh Kodiyeri was sent to judicial custody till November 25 after his bail plea was rejected. He has been in the Enforcement Directorate’s custody since he was arrested in October.

However, CPI(M) central committee member MV Govindan said Balakrishnan’s leave had nothing to do with the arrest of his son, adding that it was not a political matter that concerned the party.

The senior politician’s absence from the party’s helm when he received treatment in the United States in October last year had not merited the need for his replacement, according to The News Minute.

The party’s move also came a month before elections to 1,200 local bodies, which is said to be a semi-final before the Assembly polls next year, The Indian Express reported. Meanwhile, Vijayaraghavan takes charge as the party’s secretary at a time when it has faced criticism for the gold smuggling case. On July 5, gold weighing 30 kg concealed in imported plumbing material was seized by the Customs officials upon inspection of an air cargo consignment addressed to the Consular General of the United Arab Emirates in Thiruvananthapuram district. Officials valued the gold at Rs 15 crore. Officials found that former employees of the consulate – Swapna Suresh and Sandeep Nair – were involved in the smuggling.

During investigation of the case in Kerala, the Enforcement Directorate also found links with Bineesh Kodiyeri’s drug case. He was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in relation to the smuggling case as well on September 9.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told The Hindu that Balakrishnan’s absence was a sign of rebellion in the party. “The arrests of Sivasankar and Bineesh were signs of the rot that has set in the CPI(M) and the government,” he said. “Vijayan had steeped the party and government in corruption and criminality.”

Chennithala said that the party had sensed that its workers “were on the verge of mutiny” and therefore “removed” Balakrishnan. “It might be the turn of the chief minister next,” he added.