Going through its toughest political crisis, the CPI(M) unanimously elected Sitaram Yechury – its moderate and pragmatic face – as the general secretary on Sunday banking on him to attract the youth and expand its base. Two Muslim members from West Bengal were inducted into the politburo at the party’s 21st congress.
Yechury takes over the reins from Prakash Karat, whose decade-long stint saw the party’s fortunes dwindle both in Lok Sabha and in the Left bastion of West Bengal where it was routed in 2011 after a record 34-year-old rule.
Taking charge, Yechury vowed to strengthen Left unity and fight the communal agenda “unleashed by the Modi government”. “The (party) congress is a congress for the future of the party, India and Left unity. We will return from this party congress with resolve and conviction that we shall fight, we shall win.”
The ascent of Yechury may result in greater coordination between the Congress and the Left against the BJP both at the centre and state level. The 62-year-old who enjoys excellent personal equation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi had vehemently opposed the Left’s walkout from the UPA coalition over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal in 2008.
On Sunday too, Yechury avoided criticising the Congress but squarely targeted the Modi government. “The Modi government unleashed a new trimurti — communalism, neoliberal economic policies and erosion of democratic practices. We must ensure that this trimurti doesn’t convert into a trishul to pierce India’s heart,” Yechury said.
When the outgoing politburo met on Saturday evening to zero in on a new leader, it did not decide on any name but referred the issue to the central committee that met Sunday morning. This was seen as a last-ditch attempt to push Pillai for the top post, sources said.
On Sunday, however, Pillai seconded Yechury’s name which was proposed by Karat. According to sources, the party avoided an embarrassing voting as many leaders were opposed to Pillai as the general secretary. Pillai, who had earlier made it clear that he would take up the top post only if elected unanimously, reportedly said he was too old for the position and withdrew from the race, throwing his weight behind Yechury.
The party also inducted four new members to the politburo — Hannan Mollah, Mohammed Saleem, Subhashini Ali, and G Ramakrishnan. Mollah and Saleem’s induction assumes significance as the party has in recent elections lost a substantial chunk of its Muslim vote bank to the Trinamool.
But as the party elected a 91-member central committee, its highest executive body, VS Achuthanandan, the lone surviving founder member, lost his berth. He, along with Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and eight other leaders, would now be an invitee to the committee.
Read: From an activist to CPI-M general secretary: Sitaram Yechury's journey