Yechury has historic tasks ahead
Broadening anti-BJP unity, left renewal to be top agenda for the CPI(M) leader.
The re-election of Sitaram Yechury as the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) at the just ended 22nd congress of the CPI(M) assumes special significance in the present period of political turmoil when all opposition parties including Congress are feeling the need for giving a sharp edge to the moves of all-out unity of the anti-BJP parties to drive out the saffron forces from the seat of power at the centre after the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Till Sunday, the CPI(M) general secretary Yechury was hamhanded in dealing with the crucial issue of uniting the opposition forces against the BJP as the ties between the CPI(M) and the Congress were at the centre of controversy within the Party and the CPI(M) general secretary, despite his own preference, could not act speedily to facilitate the process of anti-BJP unity due to the opposition of the politburo members who still wanted to have no understanding with the Congress.
After the approval of the political resolution with amendments on the line of Yechury, the way is cleared for the building of an all-out unity against BJP in the coming round of state Assembly elections which will culminate in the Lok Sabha elections in April/May 2019. The Left will again be back in the mainstream of the Indian politics and like 1996 and again 2004, the Left will play a crucial role in keeping BJP out of power after the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The immediate outcome of the CPI(M)'s 22nd congress is that Sitaram has now got a free hand in dealing with the issues related to opposition unity including the relationship with the Congress. Congress led by Rahul Gandhi was anxiously waiting for this moment since all the parties felt that the CPI(M), in spite of its low number of Lok Sabha seats, could impart a solid ideological strength to the opposition front and Sitaram like earlier years, could play a leading role in both cementing the unity of anti-saffron forces as also working on a common minimum programme of the opposition parties which will have a pro-people character like the 1996 CMP which he helped in preparing along with P. Chidambaram.
In fact, Sitaram is running against time. As a follow up of the party congress resolution, he can start work right now and the objective should be to ensure one to one in the state Assembly elections so that the anti-BJP votes are not divided. This means that the seats in which Congress is the strongest against BJP if there is no left candidate, the Congress can be supported. This can be done even without having an alliance with the Congress as per the CPI(M) political resolution adopted at Hyderabad. This approach can start from Karnataka Assembly elections itself though it is a bit late. Karnataka Assembly elections are crucial and BJP has to be defeated convincingly in the elections so that the anti-BJP wave continues and has its impact on the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh.
In Karnataka, Congress is fighting in all the seats and the JD(S) led by Deve Gowda is also contesting in all seats. The best course would have been to have an understanding between the Congress and the JD(S). That would have beaten the BJP decisively. Bit that may not fully take place due to the state level rivalry between the Congress and JD(S). But still the senior opposition leaders like Sitaram Yechury, D. Raja, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati should see that in some seats where BJP's chances are very bright if Congress and JD(S) fight separately, there can be some understanding about supporting the strongest anti-BJP candidate. This is a difficult task as the interests of both the parties are involved. But efforts can be made to make it possible in at least 40 seats out of 224 seats in Karnataka Assembly. If this can be done, BJP will face big defeat and that will give a momentum to the opposition, especially the Congress in the next round of assembly elections.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi is in favour of alliance with SP and BJP in MP, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh. This is a good gesture and this will help in consolidating the anti-BJP votes. The CPI and the CPI(M) can also have some understanding in a few seats where they have solid bases. If the Congress president takes the national perspective in view, as the leader of the main opposition party, one can be magnanimous in ensuring that the anti-BJP front covers all opposition parties including the smaller ones.
For Sitaram Yechury, the second most important task is to prepare a roadmap for the unification of the two communist parties. There is no basis for CPI(M) and CPI to remain as separate entities as there has been a sea of change in the international situation which precipitated the split in the CPI in 1964.The India-China border war in 1962 and the call of the Chinese Communist Party for a parallel line through its letter of June 14, 1963, contributed to the split though the senior CPI(M) leaders like Prakash Karat try to project as if the two parties have still much differences on the assessment of the Congress.
The CPI(M) leadership has been talking of the Communist unity but no concrete move has been taken yet. CPI is ready for the unity of the communist parties and this will be indicated at the coming Kollam Party congress of the Party also. The CPI(M) has brought its political line close to that of the CPI and the line of difference is very thin. This is the right time for both the parties to follow up with all earnestness the Left unity issue, the beginning of which will be the unification of the CPI and the CPI(M).This may take time, but the process should start right this year and this will give a big morale booster to the other left parties. If the two big communist parties, one with Maoist ideology can merge in Nepal and form the government, there is no reason why the CPI(M) and the CPI cannot do the same in India. Sitaram and Sudhakar Reddy of CPI have to take the initiative and it can be done.
There is a saying that after a lowest ebb, one can only go up. The Left parties had 61 seats in Lok Sabha in 2004 elections, it went down to 24 in 2009 and to 10 in 2014 elections. Despite becoming general secretary of the CPI(M) in 2015, Yechury could not show his leadership skill due to the restraint put on him by the politburo. Those fetters are gone and the time has come for Yechury to show his skill in navigating the tortuous process of opposition unity to the successful landing to the shore after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. For the Indian Left, the time for big renewal has come and much depends on Sitaram-Sudhakar combination.
(The author is Editor-in-Chief, IPA. Views are strictly personal)