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Leadership issue tops CPM meet agenda

By George Iype in New Delhi
April 05, 2005 18:11 IST
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The Communist Party of India-Marxist is going to be young soon. On the eve of the 18th CPI-M party congress that is all set to begin in the capital on Wednesday, one issue that is being hotly debated among party leaders is the induction of a younger set of leaders into the party brass.

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Party leaders say the congress, to be held from April 6 to April 11,  is going to be significant for a number of reasons.

One, it is the first time the party will be holding its congress in the capital; two, the conclave will discuss why and how the party should continue to support the Congress-led government at the Centre; and third, a change of guard.

"Yes, it is going to be a crucial meeting. We will chalk out various plans at this meeting, including induction of younger leaders, and the expansion of the party across the country," CPI-M politburo member and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Nilotpal Basu told

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According to him, one of the most significant outcomes of the party congress would be "an evaluation of our support to the Manmohan Singh government."

A powerful section of CPI-M leaders, especially those from Kerala, are these days arguing that it is time the party reviewed its outside support to the Congress-led government.

They argue that the policies and programmes of CPI-M are considerably getting diluted and often ridiculed under the Manmohan government.

"Often, we are becoming the butt of ridicule among the people because the CPI-M professes one thing and it continues to support a government that goes about doing whatever it wants, whether it is economic policies or social programmes," a senior leader from Kerala said.

Therefore, he said, many CPI-M leaders are of the opinion that the party could even think of withdrawing support to the Congress government.

"We are supporting the government without raising any voice against the government policies. Is it not our failure that we are taken for a ride by this government," the Kerala Marxist leader asked.

Like him, many CPI-M leaders are likely to protest what they allege is "unconditional support" to the Manmohan government at the cost of the party's existence.

Another important item on the congress agenda is whether it is time for veteran party stalwarts like Jyoti Basu and Harkishen Singh Surjeet to retire.

Basu and Surjeet have been the most visible faces of the CPI-M for long. But, Surjeet is now 89 and Basu will be 91 soon.

"Age has caught up with them. It is time for them to go," said a party insider.

Most CPI-M leaders have agreed that time is up for both these senior leaders to say goodbye and hand over the reins to younger leaders.

"Yes, younger leaders coming to the forefront of the party to spread the party's reach across the length and breadth of India is a possibility we have been discussing. If you look at our party, younger people have already taken over in various places," said CPI-M party politburo member Prakash Karat pointed out.

Basu has already requested the CPI-M leadership to relieve him of official responsibilities because of his ill health. But Surjeet, whom many call the political kingmaker in Delhi, is yet to announce his plans.

Many expect Surjeet to announce his willingness to step down as the CPI-M general secretary during the party congress.

CPI-M circles have already informally agreed that the mantle of running the party, once Surjeet gives up his post, would fall on Karat.

However, Karat, often considered the most respected CPI-M ideologue, refused to comment.

In the coming days, the CPI-M will decide who will now run the party and how it would be run.


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George Iype in New Delhi