CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury is leading an opposition move to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, despite the party’s move to clip his wings only a few days ago by rejecting his attempt to ally with non-BJP parties against the BJP. Yechury’s move seems to be getting some traction.
Yechury had threatened to resign when his draft of action wasn’t approved by the party’s Central Committee over the weekend — he had lost decisively, outvoted 55-31 — but was persuaded to stay on till the CPM’s Party congress takes place in Hyderabad in April.
The move to impeach Dipak Mishra is never-say-die Yechury’s next step. If he is able to get the Congress on board, he will be thumbing his nose at his own party, or at least a faction notably led by the erstwhile party general secretary Prakash Karat.
Karat gave up the job to Yechury three years ago, but even at the time the contest was close. The Karat faction, which gets its primary support from the Kerala group in the CPM led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had opposed Yechury’s election tooth and nail.
This is certainly Yechury’s boldest move yet. At the Central Committee meeting a few days ago, eyewitnesses said he had looked very dejected after his draft was shot down “What is the need for me to remain as the general secretary?” he had said, until Left Front chairman Biman Bose dissuaded him.
Party sources admitted that Yechury’s biggest advantage is that he remains the party’s most recognisable face, that too in Delhi, where both politicians and the media thrive and feed off each other. Only a few months ago the Pinarayi Vijayan-Prakash Karat faction had won another victory, by insisting that no one can be given a Rajya Sabha membership for more than two terms. This had meant that Yechury was forced to give up his RS seat.
Certainly Yechury’s personable demeanour is hardly a reflection of the Party’s influence in national politics. The party’s strength in Parliament is at its lowest. It is in power only in Kerala and Tripura — which is going up the polls in a few weeks.
Perhaps Yechury’s popularity is a key reason why his opponents want to get rid of him — except that they fail to realise that if he disappears into the wilderness, few people will be bothered to listen to a dogmatic party line that prefers to look within.
A majority of the Bengal CPIM leaders have put their weight behind Yechury’s line that the party must join hands with Congress to form a ‘secular front’ which takes on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Certainly, Yechury’s defeat at the Central Committee meeting was actually a defeat of Bengal leaders within the party.
But the Bengal line has been losing ground for over a decade. Differences between Bengal and Kerala grew especially sharp after the Left withdrew support to Congress- led United Progressive Front (I) in 2008. Leaders from Bengal expressed their reservations but could do nothing to stop it. Unsurprisingly, Prakash Karat was the party general secretary then.
It has been downhill since, for Bengal’s CPM leaders. After the Trinamool Congress defeated the CPM in 2011, the party’s voice grew even more feeble. Both in the state as well as inside the party, it was significantly weakened.
After the Trinamool returned to power, an analysis of the results revealed that the BJP had also done very well — an even bigger blow to the CPM.
It doesn’t help that senior Bengal leaders, like former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is ailing, and Nirupam Sen (former industry minister and politburo member) passed away. Biman Bose remains the only person known to people outside Bengal.
A supine party in Bengal knows that if it has to be relevant in national politics, it cannot do so on its own — those days are long over. Moreover, the twin challenges, the Trinamool in the state and the BJP at the centre, are too big and powerful.
But with the Karat lobby successful in banning even an ‘electoral understanding’ with the Congress party, the chances of CPIM being part of a secular front led by Congress in 2019 Lok Sabha seem dismal. Moreover, the question of opposing the Trinamool in Bengal but potentially supporting it in a potential anti-BJP alliance at the Centre also remains unresolved.
The Karat lobby points out that Sitaram Yechury indeed got his way in the 2016 Assembly polls when the CPIM and Congress in West Bengal entered into a informal electoral understanding and seat sharing against the Trinamool Congress. But the Trinamool Congress not only held on to power, it even increased its seats in the state.
In 1975, the CPI(M) faced a similar situation when the political line proposed by the then general secretary P Sundarayya was rejected by the central committee. Sundarayya promptly resigned. Though Yechury’s resignation was thwarted by Bengal leaders over the weekend, the question of his remaining General Secretary beyond the Party congress looms large.
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