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CPI(M) general secretary: Suspense lingers

CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat (right) with Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

As the suspense over who will replace him cloaks the 21st Party Congress here, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat on Wednesday dodged questions on the chances of Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau member and comrade-in-arms from his Jawaharlal Nehru University days. Mr. Karat will step down after three terms this weekend.

“You ask me this on the fifth day of the Party Congress and I will give you an answer,” Mr. Karat said seeking to end this line of questioning at a media briefing on the Congress proceedings. Asked how he would look at his decade-long tenure, he said: “We do not discuss individual leader’s performance.”

Unless a dark horse emerges, the two names in the running remain Mr. Yechury (62) and his Polit Bureau colleague S. Ramachandran Pillai (77). Such is the level of suspense that party newspapers in various languages have not got any indication on keeping a profile of the new leader ready for publication as is usually done. The delegates insist that their State leaders have indicated nothing to them.

Though the 749 delegates to the Party Congress technically have an indirect say in the election, by electing the new Central Committee, the outgoing Polit Bureau and Central Committee have a say in the entire process.

The two bodies present a list of names to the delegates for election to the new Central Committee, which will, in turn, elect the new Polit Bureau and general secretary from among its members.

The lingering uncertainty in electing a new general secretary suggests a tussle within. The elevation of the present general secretary, Prakash Karat, in 2005 was a done deal weeks before the 18th Party Congress, but this time, the process appears to be going down to the wire.

While “SRY”, or Sitaram Yechury, is billed as the most prominent face of the party, the supporters of “SRP”, or S. Ramachandran Pillai, point to his organisational skills and portray him as a unifying force. Mr. Yechury’s supporters insist he is more dynamic of the two and better positioned to reach out to people within and outside the party. On this count, many liken “SRY” to former general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who held office before Mr. Karat.

If Mr. Pillai is made general secretary, there is talk of giving Mr. Yechury a third term in the Rajya Sabha, where he has made the nine-member CPI(M) a rallying point of the Opposition. By convention, the party has not allowed more than two positions to a person.

Of the delegates, the biggest contingents are from Kerala and West Bengal — 175 each. Though Kerala now has more members than West Bengal, the central leadership took a conscious decision not to cut down the quota of its West Bengal unit, still struggling to come to terms with its electoral decimation.


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 8:12:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/suspense-lingers-over-next-cpim-general-secretary/article7106401.ece

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