Stepping into the shoes of Ardhendu Bhushan Bardhan,who steered the CPI through its highs and lows over the last 16 years,is no mean task. But Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy is ready for the job.
A pragmatic politician who rose from student politics to succeed Bardhan as the general secretary of one of the countrys oldest parties,Reddy has set out what he needs to do. A two-time Lok Sabha MP,Reddy may not have the charisma of Bardhan,or be as outspoken or media-savvy,but he cant be called reticent or unimaginative either. The 70-year-old law graduate from Kurnool is a quintessential organisation man,a practical politician fully attuned to the ground realities. He believes making his party strong and independent is as important as,if not more than,Left unity and is against letting Ajoy Bhavan play second fiddle to AKG Bhavan.
Reddy is a veteran in national politics. In the second half of the 1960s,after the original party split,he shifted to Delhi as the general secretary of the All India Students Federation and learnt his craft from stalwarts like C Rajeswara Rao and S A Dange. He became president of the AISF soon,went on to head the CPIs youth wing AIYF two years later,and became a member of the CPI national council in 1971. The next three decades saw him emerging one of the partys top leaders in Andhra Pradesh.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Nalgonda in 1998 and 2004. That he would succeed Bardhan became clear by 2008 when he was elevated as deputy general secretary. Following four years of grooming by Bardhan himself,Reddy is now ready to emerge from under the shadow of the the veteran communist and steer the CPI at a time when the Left is at its lowest ebb. His immediate priorities are to expand the partys base in the Hindi heartland and help it assert its independence.
Every year,we get around one lakh new members. But we are not able to keep them in the party. We have not been able to give them party work and then gradually they go out of our periphery, he told The Indian Express. We want to arrest this trend. This is happening at branch level. Our branch secretaries will have to be trained first. This is not an easy task that can be achieved overnight. The emphasis will be on organising study classes,party schools,etc.
He puts a lot of importance on identifying and taking up local issues to strengthen the party in the North. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be given top priority, he says. For instance,he wants the party to launch an agitation in Bihar to expose the Nitish Kumar governments failure to implement land reforms as proposed by the D Bandopadhayay Commission.
There is scope for similar agitations in UP. There are many local issues. We will have to assure the people that we will fight for you, he said.
It was under his leadership that the CPI in Andhra Pradesh launched a massive agitation in the Telangana region which ended in the Warangal Declaration in 2000 demanding a separate state. As state secretary,he managed to convince the central leadership and his comrades in Andhra Pradesh that supporting the demand was in the partys interest. The CPM is opposed to the demand.
Unlike Bardhan,Reddy was not very fluent in Hindi until some time ago. Having studied and lived in Hyderabad,I could follow both Hindi and Urdu. But there was a difficulty in addressing workers in Hindi. I worked on my Hindi in the last two years, he said.
Although a votary of unification of CPM and the CPI,he is against broaching the topic repeatedly with the CPM. For him,the coming together of Left and democractic forces is more important; that could create the ground for unification. While the CPI has had associations with the Congress,he feels times have changed and now rules out offering any support to the Congress.
So,how does he feel picking up the mantle from Bardhan? I will have to do the job given to me. It was inevitable. I am sure of my responsibility. And,Bardhan has assured us that he will be with us giving directions and guidance, he said.
Reddy said he plans to tour half a dozen states,as far as Manipur,along with Bardhan in the coming months. The first task is to rebuild and expand the party.