Yechury has an unenviable task on hand

Till around noon on Sunday, becoming general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) may have appeared an uphill task for Sitaram Yechury. But now, after his success, the Rajya Sabha member is fully conscious of the Herculean task at hand, heading as he does a party at the nadir of its 50-year-old political existence.

“We are at the lowest ebb in the party’s history, both in terms of our parliamentary presence and organisational strength. This has to be reversed. It is only on our internal strength that we can be effective in national politics,” Mr. Yechury told The-Hindu as he ate his first meal of the day around 3 p.m., a couple of hours after being elected general secretary.

Some of the comments on social media on his elevation reflect the challenges ahead: “Sitaram Yechury has been given the job of performing the last rites of the CPM in the country’’ and “It is like being appointed the captain of the Titanic, two hours after it has hit the iceberg.”

They pretty much reflect the reality. But instead of wallowing in the past, Mr. Yechury preferred to look to the future. “The 21st congress is the congress for the future of our party and our country.” In his first address to the delegates at the congress after taking charge, he urged them to return to their work with the resolve that “we shall fight” and the conviction that “we shall win.”

Born into a South Indian Brahmin family, Mr. Yechury may be a “godless communist” but his two speeches on his first day in office saw him use references from Hinduism to criticise the Hindutva brigade. According to him, the Modi government represents a “trimurti” [triumvirate] of evil — communalism, neo-liberal economic policies and anti-democratic practices. “We should ensure that this ‘trimurti’ does not convert into a trishul [trident] to pierce the heart of India.”

And, addressing a public meeting later in the evening, he said: “Ashwamedha yagya of neo-liberalism and communalism will be stopped by the twins, hammer and sickle.”

These comments appeared to be directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who last month pointedly told Mr. Yechury and his team of eight party members in the Rajya Sabha that they were following an “imported ideology,” during the discussion on the Motion of Thanks (MoT) to the President’s Address. Minutes later, Mr. Yechury led the Opposition in forcing the government to accept an amendment to the MoT.

Billed as the true heir to the coalition-building legacy of CPI(M)’s third general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, his easy demeanour and ability to deal with politicians from across the spectrum inside and outside Parliament have earned him the reputation of being the de facto Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Though of the view that he should not continue in Parliament, given the additional responsibilities and travel as general secretary, political compulsions may at least see him complete his term. Given its decimated strength in West Bengal, the party does not have the numbers to retain the seat should he step down before completion of his term on August 18, 2017.

Mr. Yechury takes charge of the party exactly 30 years after he was first elected to the Central Committee in 1985, a few months after he was made permanent invitee.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 12:25:02 PM |

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