A.B. Bardhan’s statement to a television channel on Saturday that he would want to retire as the CPI general secretary after the All India Party Congress meets in March 2008 has expectedly triggered speculation about his successor.
Bardhan told a TV channel in an interview — which will be telecast on Sunday — “I would like to retire. I would appeal to the party (during the Congress) to relieve me. New leadership should emerge.” Bardhan took over the reins of the party after the then general secretary Indrajit Gupta became the Union home minister in United Front in 1996. Since 2004, when the Left decided to give outside support to the Congress-led UPA, he has played an important role in defining the relationship between the two political groupings. His party colleagues were reluctant to talk about succession. Several leaders claimed that so far there have been no discussions within the party about who could take over from him.
The general secretary could be chosen from the Central Secretariat, which comprises nine persons, including Bardhan. Some of the senior leaders in the Secretariat are Sudhakar Reddy, C.K. Chandrappan, Gurudas Das Gupta and D. Raja, who recently became a member of Rajya Sabha.
A senior leader said that if Bardhan talked about retirement, it was his “personal view”. He said: “there has been no discussion within the party about his retirement. And since there has been no discussion, it is difficult to assume who could succeed him as general secretary. But it is not certain at all that he would step down at all.”
The general secretary of the CPI is elected by National Council, which in turn is elected every three years by the All India Party Congress. The council also elects the Central Secretariat, which is the day-to-day decision making body, like the CPI (M)’s politburo. The CPI leader said that the National Council has the power not to accept Bardhan’s request. “It would be a collective decision,” he said.
The leader added that there are several factors that go into the election of the general secretary. Some of these factors are the candidate’s age, attachment to party organisational structure and what additional duties and responsibilities he has to perform.