New Delhi: Battle lines have been drawn in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) over its next General Secretary, the top-most leader in the party hierarchy. So far there is no inkling as to who will take over the mantle of the party chief after the next Party Congress in April 2022.
A three-day-long meeting of the party's Central Committee, which began on Friday, would prepare a framework for the draft political resolution to be presented before the Party Congress, which is a regular conference of its leaders.
The party Politburo meeting may be convened next month to give the finishing touches to the political resolution.
As per the CPM constitution, there is no bar for Yechury to become the general secretary for the third time. Brinda Karat, the wife of former general secretary Prakash Karat, is a hot contender for the post. If she misses a chance this time, she will not be considered for the post again because of the age limit set by the party.
The anti-Yechury forces unsuccessfully tried to bring politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai and Tripura former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar to the post in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Yechury's detractors in the party are hopeful this time that a new general secretary can be brought in if Yechury's pro-Congress political line is rejected by the Party Congress.
Rift over ties with Congress
Meanwhile, the open tussle in the CPM at the national level is about the stand to be taken vis-a-vis the Congress party. Just like the situation that prevailed prior to the conduct of the last two Party Congress, there is a sharp division in the leadership over the party's relationship with the Congress party. The issue was used as a rallying point by the Prakash Karat-Pinarayi Vijayan camp in the party in order to block Sitaram Yechury's ascend to the party general secretary's post in 2015 and his re-election to the same post in 2018. But it did not succeed as both the times, Yechury got the mandate to become the general secretary.
The Karat-Pinarayi team is advocating the same old line that there need not be any truck with Congress whether it is an alliance or some kind of political adjustments. But they find nothing wrong in being part of an alliance that is being led by a regional party and in which Congress is a coalition partner, like the alliance that is now existing in Tamil Nadu. But the supporters of Yechury are expected to repeat their demand for entering into an alliance with Congress to dislodge BJP from power.
According to the Karat-Pinarayi faction, the alliance with Congress has stymied the chances of a comeback for the party in West Bengal and is creating confusion in Kerala. But the Yechury faction is countering it by saying that Bengalis don't consider Congress as a problem. They further ask how CPM could come to power again with a thumping majority in Kerala if there was confusion among people over alliance with Congress.
The issue that Yechury is going to face the most is that even in the case of his continuance as general secretary, he may not be able to cobble up a majority in the party Politburo. This is the problem Yechury has been facing for the last six years as the general secretary.
The CPM has decided to hold the Party Congress next April at Kannur in Kerala. But a section of party leaders argues that the Party Congress will have to be postponed if it coincides with the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
If the differences over the political strategy to be adopted by the party persist even after the Politburo meeting in November, the CPM will have no other option, but to take the different viewpoints straight to the Party Congress. This had happened in the Party Congress held in Hyderabad in 2018. That conference considered the document prepared by Karat and Pillai and the alternate document presented by Yechury. Finally, the political line of Yechury advocating an alliance with the Congress party in the elections was accepted by the Party Congress, paving the way for the election of Yechury as the general secretary of the party again.