Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury: A tale of two states and two rivals

Bengaluru: A rare vote at the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, central committee meeting on Sunday on a proposal to ally with the Congress to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its rejection comes as a major setback for general secretary Sitaram Yechury, exposing the deep rifts in the party.

Rejecting the proposal moved by general secretary Yechury, which suggested uniting all secular forces to take on the BJP in the 2019 general election, the committee members instead overwhelmingly supported a rival motion by former general secretary Prakash Karat and leader from Kerala, S. Ramachandran Pillai,

Yechury will now have to seek ratification of the resolution at the party congress to be held in Hyderabad in April for a “political line” he himself does not believe in and is vehemently opposed. CPM holds its congress once every three years to chart its political roadmap.

It is as much a story of cracks along the ideological lines of power within India’s biggest communist party, as much a story of two rival leaders and the two states they represent within the CPM.

“This is a question of political imagination, or rather a lack of political imagination, among the leadership,” said J. Prabhash, a Kerala-based political analyst.

Prabhash added that there is no doubt that the CPM’s decision to have no truck with Congress would weaken the Indian polity, and it has to be disapproved on that count alone. The decision comes at a time when the country’s balance of political forces is heavily tilted towards the Right, because of the electoral juggernaut of the BJP, and Left is in a position to restore that balance.

“The dominant forces in this country has always been affected only when the opposition units came together. The CPM should have evaluated its decision based on the face of that reality,” he said.

According to analysts, Yechury and Karat represent the interests of the party’s West Bengal and Kerala units respectively, two states where the CPM still has a presence.

“This split between the West Bengal and Kerala perspectives has been there in the party for some time. Kerala politics is seeing a direct biparty competition between the CPM and the Congress. The alignment with Congress, even if it is for a national purpose, is challenging for the CPM unit in Kerala, because how will you explain locally that you are joining hands with your principal opponent? Whereas in West Bengal, the situation is different. The CPM has lost considerable ground, has now the fear of being marginalized and many believe the BJP will emerge as the principal opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress. The contradiction you see now is, in fact, linked to their survival in these two large states,” said Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and coordinator of the think tank, Lokniti network.

However, CPM Politburo member and member of Parliament Mohammed Salim disapproved of any rift between the state units and suggested the Bengal unit is not keen on a tie-up with Congress. “Because there was a seat-sharing agreement (between the CPM and the Congress in West Bengal) in 2016 (assembly polls), it doesn’t necessarily imply that it will be our stand all along,” he said.

Pillai, the CPM leader who moved the motion along with Karat, was unavailable for a comment.

“For the moment, they may try to make a virtue out of the situation by saying this is part of their internal democracy. But in the meanwhile, the Karat and the Yechury factions will be regrouping and trying to sell their positions, for the next round of battle,” said Shastri.livemint

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