Mr Karat has hewed to the traditional anti-Congress line of the communists formulated to defeat Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress.
The CPI(M), which had been relegated to the margins after crippling defeats in West Bengal and Tripura, has emerged with some focus from its 22nd Party Congress that concluded in Hyderabad on Sunday. A clear sign of this is the re-election of party general secretary Sitaram Yechury for a new three-year term.
Even as the deliberations went on at the Left party’s triennial assembly to decide on the political tactical line, there were suggestions that the CPI(M) would seek to fight two enemies at the same time — the “communal” ruling BJP-RSS, as well as the Congress Party, a shadow of its old self even in the Opposition ranks but still the principal all-India Opposition party.
Ideologically, politically and strategically, this would have been an extraordinary exercise at navel-gazing. Former general secretary Prakash Karat was pushing this line.
Mr Karat has hewed to the traditional anti-Congress line of the communists formulated to defeat Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress. Eventually, the Communist Party of India split in 1964 on the question of the attitude toward the Congress, throwing up the CPI(Marxist), of which belief Mr Karat is the last prominent remnant.
It is said his line enjoyed the majority in the CPI(M) central committee, and had tied the hands of general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who was first elected three years ago.
But for the delegates at the Hyderabad Congress, comprising the party’s rank-and-file, who demanded secret voting (never done before) on the political document forwarded for the consideration of the Party Congress by the central committee, Mr Karat’s position, backed by Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of Kerala (the only state where the CPI(M) matters enough to form a government) would have prevailed.
Its defeat has far-reaching political significance. It signals a re-think for the first time of the broad position adopted by the CPI(M) since 1964. That makes the Hyderabad Congress historic.
Mr Yechury has announced that the main immediate aim of his party will be to work for the defeat of the BJP-RSS in the next Lok Sabha election. He now has the freedom to strike any sort of electoral working arrangement with any “bourgeois” party, including the Congress, in order to achieve this goal. The situation is always dynamic in politics and where this leads is a matter of guesswork. But it is clear that the rank-and-file of the CPI(M) has defied the party elite in order to wrest a new tactical line.
It will be surprising if the new position of the CPI(M) does not leave a mark on the CPI, whose own Party Congress is coming up shortly. The CPI has been fine with tactically aligning electoral and political positions with the Congress in order to push back “the big bourgeoisie”, but in recent times it had begun to tail the CPI(M). The two parties may now reach a better understanding.