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Eye on Rajya Sabha seat: A win in Tripura elections may spark CPI(M) infighting

If Jharna Das Baidya does vacate her Rajya Sabha seat, then both CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and politburo member Brinda Karat may eye a return to the Upper House.

Tripura Elections 2018 Updated: Feb 26, 2018 13:20 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tripura elections,CPI(M),Sitaram Yechury
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury during the party's central committee meeting.(PTI File Photo)

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) might be in for an internal contest over Tripura’s sole Rajya Sabha seat if it retains power in the northeastern state, party insiders familiar with the development said.

The state’s ruling party has fielded its sitting Rajya Sabha MP, Jharna Das Baidya, from Tripura for the upcoming assembly elections, opening doors for her possible exit from the Upper House. “The understanding is that she will join the legislative assembly and resign from the Rajya Sabha,” a CPI(M) central committee member said on condition of anonymity.

Stating that she would follow the party’s decision, Baidya said from Agartala: “If the party says I have to work in the state and give up my Rajya Sabha seat, I will do it. I have no problem.”

If Baidya does vacate her RS seat, then both CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and politburo member Brinda Karat may eye a return to the Upper House via Tripura, banking on the party’s majority in the state’s assembly, leaders of the Left party said on condition of anonymity. The results of the state polls will be declared on March 3 and if the BJP emerges victorious, then Baidya would continue to be an RS parliamentarian till the completion of her term in 2022, they added.

At least three CPI(M) leaders said that Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar has signalled that he wants Yechury to represent the state in the Rajya Sabha if the party retains power.

Yechury, considered the face of India’s largest communist party, could not get a third RS term last year when a section of the party — led by its Kerala lobby — rejected the possibility of getting him elected with the support of the Congress.

The CPI(M) chief may not find all-round support this time too, as a section of the party may back Karat’s nomination if Baidya does vacate her seat.

“Our general rule is that no one should be given more than two terms in the Rajya Sabha. Yechury completed his second term last year. Karat has done just one term,” said a central committee leader.

Backing Karat’s candidature from Tripura, another party leader said: “She camped in Tripura for more than a week to help in campaigning.”

A leader from the Yechury camp said the Prakash Karat lobby might try to block Yechury’s candidature on multiple grounds. “Even if Manik Sarkar wants Yechury [to represent Tripura in the RS], they [Karat camp] can always bring up the two-term clause. They may also say that responsibilities in the RS will affect his full-time commitment for the all-important post of general secretary.”

Yechury, however, downplayed the talks over his RS candidature as mere speculation.

“These are speculation. Our aim is to win the assembly elections in Tripura,” he said from Coimbatore.

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 22:35 IST