Prakash Karat has been re-elected general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for one more term.
Mr. Karat's re-election on Monday represents continuity in the leadership amid the party's resolve to set a term limit for its office-bearers to reflect change. It came came a day after the 20th party congress amended its constitution to introduce a three-term limit for general secretary and secretaries at all levels.
Mr. Karat, 64, was first elected to the post in the New Delhi congress in April 2005 and re-elected at the Coimbatore congress held three years later. The amendment means this is his last term.
Besides Mr. Karat, the party re-elected 11 members to the Polit Bureau and elected three new members. The new members are A.K. Padmanabhan, president of the Centre for Indian Trade Union; Surya Kant Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly; and the former Kerala Minister, M.A. Baby. They fill the vacancies caused by the death of trade union leader M.K. Pandhe; ouster of V.S. Achutanandan; and the exit of Mohammed Amin.
While the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was retained, his Kerala counterpart, V.S. Achutanandan, failed to stage a comeback after he was ousted from the body on June 12, 2009.
The others members re-elected are: S. Ramachandran Pillai, Sitaram Yechury, Biman Bose, Manik Sarkar, Pinarayi Vijayan, K. Vardarajan, B.V. Raghavulu, Brinda Karat, Nirupam Sen and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
In the past few weeks, there was speculation in a section of the media in Kerala on the fate of Mr. Achutanandan, 88, who almost led the party to victory in the Assembly elections last year, defying odds and nullifying the anti-incumbency factor.
However, the central leadership accommodated him in the 87-member Central Committee, highest decision-making body after the Congress, though it sought to establish a practice of not having members aged over 80 in the body.
Prior to the Kozhikode congress, there were suggestions that besides the term limit, the party should bar members of certain age from key posts or committees, but the issue did not come up when the constitutional amendment was discussed and voted on Sunday.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Karat said the deliberations at the congress cast a “major and heavy” responsibility on the leadership to take forward the political, organisational and ideological tasks outlined in the past five days.
The congress would open a new chapter for Communists, the Left movement and a Left and democratic alternative, he said. The discussions showed that the party practised democracy at all levels through the widest debate on issues, he added.
Later, Mr. Karat told The Hindu that the induction of new members in the Polit Bureau was based on an assessment of their contributions, and the cadre of leadership it wanted to build. It was natural that representatives from States where the party was strong stepped in.
As for the term limit, he said no one, right from the general secretary to the secretary of a local committee, could continue in the post if he completed three terms, either in a row or separately. An additional term could be considered only under an extraordinary situation, with the approval of not less than three-fourths of the Central Committee.