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The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is on the verge of a possible split as the West Bengal unit of the party is up in arms against the Kerala lobby which succeeded in sabotaging the dreams of party secretary Sitaram Yechury for a third term in the Rajya Sabha. The Central Committee of the CPI-M which met in New Delhi on Wednesday amidst the political confusion in Bihar was a divided house. The West Bengal party leaders wanted Yechury to be fielded as a candidate from the State for the ensuing Rajya Sabha election in the month of August. Yechury, who has served twice as a member of the upper house was hoping that the party would nominate him again for another term. Latest news from Kolkata is that the State Committee has rejected outright the Central Committee move.
Yechury has been an eyesore for both Vijayan and Balakrishnan, because of the former’s tacit support to former Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan.
The CPI-M all India leadership, would not be able to take any action against the State legislature party which is solidly with Yechury. If they decide to field Yechury and the Congress extends its support, the AKG Bhavan (the CPI-M headquarters in New Delhi) will be left with no option other than watching the proceedings in bewilderment.
What adds power to the West Bengal unit of the CPI-M is the revelation by former Lok Sabha Speaker and one-time party strongman Somnath Chatterjee that it was Prakash Karat who subverted the chances of the former becoming the President of India. “In the 2007 Presidential election, I was approached by Sharad Yadav who was deputed to me by the Congress leadership. The Congress leaders wanted to field me as the candidate in the Presidential election. The Congress, the Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal, the DMK and the JD(U) all were unanimous in their view that I should become the President of India. But the then secretary of the CPI-M sabotaged the move,” Chatterjee told Bengali daily Aajkal.
He said he was not disappointed by the move by Karat because the latter had committed an unpardonable sin to Jyoti Basu. “In 1996, when there was political uncertainty after the Lok Sabha election, The Congress had mooted the idea of making Jyoti Basu, the then West Bengal chief minister as the country’s Prime Minister. Though all the non-BJP parties were unanimous on the issue, Karat stood in the way and India getting a Bengal-born Prime Minister did not materialize,” said Somnath Chatterjee.
But the Kerala unit of the CPI-M, which underwrites all the day-to-day expenses needed to run the party structure, was unanimous in its opposition to Yechury being fielded as a candidate. The main brains behind Operation Sitaram was chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his sidekick Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, secretary of the Kerala unit.
Yechury has been an eyesore for both Vijayan and Balakrishnan, because of the former’s tacit support to former Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan. The nonagenarian Achuthanandan is a bete noire of Vijayan and Balakrishnan.They also did not like the idea of Yechury being selected as the party secretary in the last CPI-M Congress. The reasons are many. Yechury, with his American style English and his Maharajah lifestyle, was a misfit in the CPI-M, which is portrayed as the party of the proletariat. Though Vijayan and Balakrishnan also enjoy the good things in life, they always had this inferiority complex in front of Sitaram Yechury who can charm the female leaders and workers of the party.
Vijayan and Balakrishnan wanted S Ramachandran Pillai, one of their acolytes from Kerala to be the all India secretary. But the last Party Congress turned out to be a Yechury show since it was held at Visakhapatnam, on his home turf.
There are reports that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are for nominating Yechury to the Rajya Sabha. Since the Congress does not have an effective leader in the party hierarchy, the mother-son duo is on the look out for a suitable person to be projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the party. Sitaram Yechury enjoys a special relation with Sonia Gandhi, who is always happy and pleasant when the former is around. One cannot rule out the possibility of Yechury being fielded as the Prime Ministerial face of the joint Opposition because of this special and unique relationship between Sonia and him. What qualifies him for the top post is his personal hatred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS leadership.
Since both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi face a number of legal issues, they may opt out of the race. But they would not take the risk of fielding leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia or Rajesh Pilot or even Mallikarjun Kharge for several reasons. The mother-son duo is confident that Yechury would not do anything unacceptable to them. As on date, they do not have someone like Manmohan Singh in the Congress. This is sure to work in favor of Yechury. Once he is declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Opposition, the Kerala CPI-M leadership would fall in line as Pinarayi Vijayan is entangled in some tough corruption cases like the Lavlin issue.
The next few days will see what the Bengal unit of the CPI-M is planning to do about the Congress offer of supporting Yechury to get elected to Rajya Sabha.