New boss of CPM: Will Sitaram Yechury be able to modernise party mechanism?

Hyderabad: When the Wikipedia page of Sitaram Yechury was updated at 6.51 am on April 19, 2015 (Sunday) and stated that he is currently the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), it became almost certain that Yechury would be donning the mantle of the boss of the party in a few hours from then.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury. Reuters

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury. Reuters

At 6.35 am, which is a quarter of an hour before the profile of Yechury was updated, the Wikipedia page of Prakash Karat said that he was the General Secretary of the CPI (M) between 2005 and 2015.

Well, reports that Ramachandra Pillai withdrew from the race for the top job, even as the last day’s sessions of the 21st National Congress of the CPM got underway, naturally paved the way for the ‘unanimous’ election of Yechury.

The 749-delegate national congress of the party elected the members of the Central Committee, which eventually elected the Politburo of the party and the general secretary.

However, this cumbersome process was followed only in letter, while the spirit was a foregone conclusion as to who would be enthroned to the pivotal general secretary’s position.

For, the outgoing Politburo and Central Committee not only had their way, but even their say too in zeroing in on who the general secretary should be.

While the intra-party odds highly favoured Yechury for a variety of reasons, the party veteran with hands-on exposure to popular problems, Ramachandran Pillai, bowed out of the race a few hours in advance.

While Pillai is pitted against Yechury by the party’s rabble-rouser in Kerala, arguably the most vocal Pinarai Vijayan, the virtual No.2 man in the party Yechury enjoyed the support from Karat and many from the rank and file in West Bengal too.

What worked in favour of Yechury?

1) He is younger by a solid 15 years than Ramachandran Pillai, thus becoming the youngest mascot, if he can be called so. He will be 63 on 12 August 2015.

2) Yechury has been the face of the left party at the national political arena for more than two decades and has been the party’s voice in the Rajya Sabha -- now serving the second term.

3) Yechury’s oratorical skills in English and Hindi perked up his chances compared to his rival in the “friendly contest”.

Though the party Congress has 175 delegates each from Kerala as well as West Bengal, there were sufficient indications that the Kerala contingent en bloc might not vote for Pillai.

Because, the disgruntled senior leader and former Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan dropped ample hints to this extent by ‘congratulating’ Sitaram Yechury on Saturday itself at the hotel where the two leaders were staying in Visakhapatnam.

"Honouring the convention" of having a "unanimous election", Ramachandran Pillai withdrew from the race.

Yechury, a Telugu Brahmin born in Chennai, became a member of the Students Federation of India in 1974. He went to St Stephen’s College and then to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.

His ascendancy in the ranks of the party was not meteoric, but systematic. He passed through the stages of holding positions in Students Federation of India (SFI), party’s Central Committee, Central Secretariat and then the Politburo in 1992.

When The Hindu published his interview on the eve of the 21st national Congress of the party itself, every one had a clear inkling of the certainty that Yechury is going to succeed Karat in the corner office of AK Gopalan Bhavan in Bhai Vir Singh Marg, New Delhi.

Yechury, who grew up in the party under the shadow of Harkishan Singh Surjit, did not wean himself away from talking about the continuing crisis of capitalism, erosion of democratic practices under Narendra Modi, necessity to combine the struggle for economic and social oppression and strengthening of socialism.

Upon his election, Yechury flaunted his knowledge of Hindi that propelled his rise to the position of General Secretary and on popular demand switched to Telugu to strike a sentimental cord of nativity with the people in Visakhapatnam where the national Congress was taking place.

Yechury asserted that he did not want to cry over the proverbial split milk by indulging in too much of introspection, but wanted to lead the party from the front into the future.

However, the soft-spoken intellectual could not eschew the outmoded jargon of "fight against capitalism, strengthening of socialism and mythology replacing history" leaving every one guessing on how would he modernise the party mechanism and its fight against the "bourgeoisie" political establishment and lead it "back to the future."

Updated Date: Apr 20, 2015 10:18 AM

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