Promising change in CPI(M)

The >election of Sitaram Yechury as the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was seen as the inevitable elevation of a prominent and familiar leading figure representing the Left in the parliamentary arena. The 62-year-old Mr. Yechury was widely seen as the automatic choice in the normal course. But oddly enough, until the last moment the election to the key office in the CPI(M) was shrouded in uncertainty. This was because of a strong competing bid by the dominant faction of the Kerala unit led by Pinarayi Vijayan, which complicated matters until the very end. Ten years older than the outgoing general secretary Prakash Karat, S. Ramachandran Pillai could hardly have been the person to win for the CPI(M) new recruits among India’s youthful, expanding salaried middle-class, and the move found little support from other States. Quite unlike in 2005 when Mr. Karat was elected general secretary, the change of guard in the CPI(M) this time does not mark a generational shift. However, the change is no less significant for that reason. Although of the same generation, Mr. Karat and Mr. Yechury have come to represent very different strands of thought in the party. Mr. Karat is more ideological in his approach, a theorist reluctant to compromise on core issues even when the party enters into electoral seat adjustments with others. Mr. Yechury >believes in greater cooperation and coordination with other secular-democratic parties and in building a more broad-based front to deal with changing ground realities and the growing threats to secularism. An approach that is more accommodative to other parties, based on the recognition of the CPI(M)’s own weaknesses in many parts of the country, is therefore likely. A shift towards the adoption of a native model of socialism, situated in Indian conditions, is a distinct possibility under Mr. Yechury’s stewardship.

The biggest challenge for the CPI(M) under Mr. Yechury is recovering lost ground in West Bengal, where both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP are on the ascendant. Mistakes in Singur and Nandigram were compounded by the failure to see the growing threat from the BJP. The CPI(M) has been successful in bringing left and democratic forces together on a joint programme in States where it has had a strong presence. Now the challenge is to help build a democratic, secular coalition in other States and at the national level. To this end, the party would have to reassess its attitude to the Congress, traditionally a rival in States where it has been in power — Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Mr. Yechury can be expected to formulate a pragmatic change in the attitude of the CPI(M) to allow it to play a part in the States where it is a contender for power and at the all-India level, as a binding force for not only the Left parties but also for secular and regional parties.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 4:35:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/promising-change-in-cpim/article7119516.ece

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