‘Kerala line’ vs ‘Bengal line’ tussle in CPI(M) central committee

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 04, 2016 20:22 IST
General secretary of CPI(M) party Sitaram Yechury, former general secretary Prakash Karat, Surjya Kanta Mishra and Left Front chairman Biman Basu during a party meeting in Kolkata on upcoming election in West Bengal. (PTI File Photo)

No meeting of the beleaguered CPI(M)’s central committee has been of such significance in the recent past as the upcoming one from February 17.

Fireworks are expected at the CC meet as CPI(M)’s Bengal unit is desperate to ally with the Congress for the assembly polls in April. The CPI(M)’s Kerala leaders and also a large section of the central leadership, however, are vehemently opposed to such tie-up on ideological as well as tactical grounds. In the CC, the West Bengal unit is in a minority.

“If we align with the Congress, we may get a few more seats in Bengal but it will almost surely ruin our chances to win back Kerala. So, which is more important? Getting a few more seats as a runner-up or wresting power in a state?” a politburo member told HT.

The party’s glorious days are all but a distant dream, but there seems no end to the tactical tussle between what is commonly called as the ‘Kerala line’ and the ‘Bengal line’. While Kerala unit leaders prefer to stick to hardcore communist principles and see both the BJP and the Congress as its key enemies, the West Bengal comrades are seen as more flexible in its tactics and now want to join hands with the Congress to revive their vote bank against the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool.

The two sides have clashed on several occasions. In 1996, the powerful Kerala lobby was blamed for the party’s reluctance to allow Jyoti Basu to become the Prime Minister of the United Front government. The bitterness escalated to a central committee meeting to decide if the rejection of the PM’s post was a historic blunder.

In 2007, the party again faced a conflict over withdrawal of support from the Manmohan Singh government. Last year, the Bengal unit backed Sitaram Yechury’s candidature for the general secretary’s post while the Kerala comrades wanted SR Pillai in the hot seat.

Even if the party’s headquarters formally reject the idea of a Congress-CPI(M) alliance, in parts of Bengal, informal understanding is already in place.

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