Rajya Sabha Now Has a Gaping Sitaram Yechury-Sized Hole

CPI(M) commits another political blunder by not allowing Sitaram Yechury for a third term in the Rajya Sabha.

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Rajya Sabha Now Has a Gaping Sitaram Yechury-Sized Hole

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Late last month, the 91-member Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), its highest policy-making body, took careful aim – and shot itself in the foot. It refused to allow CPI-M stalwart Sitaram Yechury to contest (and possibly, win) a third term in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s Parliament.

Listen to the story here:

Six years ago, Yechury, whose quick wit and casual mannerisms hide a razor sharp mind, was elected to the Rajya Sabha for the second time, mainly with the support of party units in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Then, the communists had just lost power in Bengal and it would take them another five years to come back to power in Kerala. Yet, Yechury, with the support of other parties like the Congress, sailed through to the Upper House.

Also Read: CPI(M) Decides Against Third Rajya Sabha Term For Sitaram Yechury


Rejection of Yechury’s Candidature

He could have done so on 1 August, this year, too. After all, the Bengal unit of the CPI-M was backing him, and the Congress made it clear that it would only support Yechury, and nobody else from the communist party. But that was not to be.

The committee’s meeting and decision was far from smooth and unanimous, and ended with the Kerala faction of the CPI-M blocking Yechury’s candidature, overruling protests from Bengal and Tripura.

Two reasons were officially cited for the rejection of Yechury’s candidature. One, that the party never allowed more than two terms for a Rajya Sabha member; two, that Yechury, the general secretary – and pan-India leader – of the CPI-M, wouldn’t be able to juggle both responsibilities.

The third, and most important reason for getting Yechury out of the Rajya Sabha, was left unsaid. It is the bitter jealousy harboured by former party boss Prakash Karat and the Kerala unit that backs him, about Yechury.

Also Read: Know Sitaram Yechury, the Man who Heads Indian Communism


Yechury’s exit from Rajya Sabha

  • CPI(M)’s 91-member Central Committee refuses to allow Sitaram Yechury for a third term in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Yechury was elected in 2011 for a second term with support from party units in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
  • This time, it was the Kerala faction of the CPI(M) that blocked Yechury’s candidature, overruling protests from Bengal and Tripura.
  • With Yechury’s exit, the Opposition loses a face in Parliament who enjoyed wide support among many non-BJP parties.
  • Party’s inner turmoil, including Karat’s beef against Yechury has cost the CPI(M) dearly.

Yechury: The Charming Pragmatist

Unlike Karat, who hails from Kerala and can call upon his comrades from the state to support him, Yechury, a Telugu-speaking Brahmin, born in Tamil Nadu, has no particular state organisation backing him. The CPI-M has no real presence in any of these two southern states.

Yet, Yechury has compensated for this with his charisma, ready wit and exemplary performance as a Parliamentarian. Karat is a dour, dogmatic apparatchik, more at home with Lenin’s Collected Works rather than grassroots politics. Yechury is the charming pragmatist, who receives wide support from many non-BJP parties.

DP Tripathi, a former leader of the CPI-M’s students’ union, has been quoted in media comparing Yechury to former (Telugu) prime minister PV Narasimha Rao:

He has a great aptitude and orientation to take everyone along with him. After Rao, I count Yechury as a polyglot… he can speak Telugu, Tamil, Bangla, Hindi and English.
DP Tripathi, General Secretary, NCP

Another Hara-Kiri by CPI(M)

In 1996, as India prepared for a coalition government after the Lok Sabha elections failed to generate a majority for any party, the leading candidate for India’s top job was Bengal’s pragmatic and long-serving chief minister Jyoti Basu.

But his candidature was spiked by Karat and his Kerala cronies. It is near-impossible to imagine how India’s electoral politics would have evolved if his party had allowed Basu to become prime minister. Years later, Basu called this decision “a historic blunder.”

The Karat-Yechury divide became public knowledge after the latter defeated Karat two years ago to become the party boss. CPI-M insiders say the two had also differed on withdrawing support the UPA-I government.

Karat felt that the Indo-US nuclear deal was a, “sellout to imperialist forces.” Yechury realised, correctly, that the deal had no real significance and supporting the ruling coalition was a better idea. In hindsight, Yechury’s assessment proved correct.

Also Read: Who is Sitaram Yechury?


Karat-Yechury Tussle Costs the Left

On 8 August, six Rajya Sabha seats from Bengal were supposed to go to vote. But the results came out a week earlier. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of Mamata Banerjee won five of those six seats. In the sixth, senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya was the winner.

All candidates were elected unopposed. The CPI-M’s candidate who was to contest against Bhattacharya, failed to meet the deadline to submit his nomination papers.

Karat’s mulishness and his beef against Yechury have cost the CPI-M dear over time: from rejecting Basu’s appointment as PM, to withdrawing support for the UPA, and now banning its best Parliamentarian from the Upper House.

Karat, who fancies himself a scholar of Leninist theory, seems to follow what the champion of Russia’s revolution once said: “To rely upon conviction, devotion and other excellent spiritual qualities – that is not to be taken seriously in politics.”


(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. He can be reached @AbheekBarman. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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