Yechury wins, for now; CPI(M) keeps door open for seat adjustment with Cong

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M) politburo member Prakash Karat and other leaders attend the 5-day- long 22nd Congress of the CPI(M) at RTC Kalyana Mandapam in Hyderabad (Photo: PTI)
In the face of massive support for Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury from party delegates, the Prakash Karat camp on Friday conceded a compromise on the party’s future political line.

The compromise averted a vote on the draft political line, and Karat indicated this was in the interest of party unity. The compromise also suggested that Yechury would continue as the party chief for a second three-year term.

While the truce in its phrasing carries nuance typical of CPI(M) documents, it leaves elbow room for the West Bengal unit of the party to explore a seat adjustment with the Congress party in that state.

It would also allow the CPI(M) to explore adjustments with the Congress party akin to 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The CPI(M) had then entered into seat adjustments with the Congress party in handful of constituencies in Andhra Pradesh.

The party conclave in Hyderabad adopted the main political resolution with an amendment on Friday.

It deleted Karat’s formulation that the CPI(M) has to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamseavak Sangh “without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress Party.” The words "electoral understanding" and "electoral alliance" were deleted.

A new clause was added that the BJP-RSS have to be defeated “without having a political alliance with the Congress Party”, which is consistent with the CPI(M)’s line for several years that its struggle for a policy alternative will be weakened if it has an alliance with the Congress, "a party of the ruling classes".

The Karat camp sensed where the wind was blowing when party delegates demanded an unprecedented secret ballot to decide on the political line. The Karat camp, supported by Tripura and Kerala units of the party, was isolated with delegates from 16 other state units supporting Yechury’s line.

There were divisions in the Kerala unit as well, with veteran party leader, former Kerala chief minister, V S Achuthanandan also supporting Yechury.

When delegates demanded a secret ballot, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar worked out a compromise formula in the interest of party unity, sources said.

But challenges remain for Yechury. In the remaining two days of the conclave, the delegates will be electing a new central committee, the CPI(M)’s highest decision making body.

During his first term as the party chief, from 2015-18, Yechury was hobbled by a central committee where the majority of its members are aligned with the Karat camp.

Yechury’s challenge in 2018, however, is qualitatively different from the one he faced in 2015.

In 2015, it was more a personal battle for Yechury to become the general secretary of the party. Now in 2018, Yechury has to lead the party into a bitter ideological and electoral battle with the BJP in 2019, and could find the new central committee more amenable to his leadership.

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