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Quit offer heat on Karat

New Delhi, June 6: Sitaram Yechury today repeated his offer to step down from the CPM politburo in the light of the poll drubbing, buttressing what is being seen as a “Bengal lobby” bid to mount pressure on general secretary Prakash Karat.

Yechury is seen as a “pro-Bengal” leader in the party, which is already trying to fend off resignation offers from Bengal leaders Biman Bose and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Party insiders said the quit chorus was an effort to try and ensure that when Karat’s term ends early next year, his supporters cannot easily foist a leader of their choice on the party.

Karat, under whose leadership the party’s electoral performance has continued to dwindle, had already told the trio that no individual need resign because communist parties follow the concept of “collective responsibility”.

But Yechury today asserted that the poll rout had demoralised the cadres and raised questions about the leadership, and that he was reaffirming his offer to resign to try and “maintain party unity”.

He was then told that the questions he was raising related to the party’s “political and tactical line” and that this would be taken up by the highest decision-making body, the party congress, scheduled early next year.

Coinciding with the party congress, Karat will have completed three terms as general secretary which, under the CPM’s constitution, means he has to step down.

S. Ramachandran Pillai, senior politburo member from Kerala and a known Karat loyalist, is tipped to become the next general secretary.

Going by the way resignations are being offered from the party’s so-called “Bengal lobby”, which has been at odds with Karat on many key issues, any effort to elevate Pillai is likely to face stiff opposition.

Yechury, one of the party’s senior-most leaders, was reported to have offered his resignation at the last politburo meeting too where Bengal CPM secretary Bose made a similar offer, owning responsibility for the electoral rout in the eastern state. Karat had then spouted the “collective responsibility” line to dissuade them.

Party sources said Yechury’s offer today came at a meeting of the politburo, one of the party’s highest decision-making bodies, that had been called to review the Lok Sabha election rout.

The CPM central committee meets tomorrow and the day after to review the poll performance. The resignation offers from Bose, Bhattacharjee and Yechury could kick up a storm in the party, which is battling to reconnect with the masses.