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Yechury has his way on Cong

Understanding on understanding, CPM-style

Sitaram Yechury

Sentence deleted from the draft political resolution: "However, this has to be done without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress Party."

New clause to be added: "But this has to be done without having a political alliance with the Congress Party."

Hyderabad: The CPM on Friday decided to junk its policy of not having any truck with the Congress, opening the option for its Bengal unit to have an electoral understanding with the Grand Old Party.

The decision to rework the contentious clause in the draft political resolution (DPR) - cleared by the central committee in Calcutta in January by a majority vote - came as the party faced a possible split down the middle in case the issue were put to vote.

The move strengthens the position of general secretary Sitaram Yechury: doubts had been raised about a second term for him if his minority view for keeping all options open suffered defeat at the party congress.

But the issue of a second term for Yechury is still not settled: it depends on the new central committee to be elected on Sunday. The intervening 36 hours will see a lot of jostling in the outgoing politburo to get one's own people in the central committee to be able to control the party apparatus over the next three years.

The usually doctrinaire party decided to correct the majority line in the central committee after delegates from at least 16 states, including Bengal and Punjab, made a forceful demand for a secret vote on Clause 2.115 in the DPR.

Those demanding a secret vote isolated the Kerala and Tripura lobby, which has often been accused of holding the party hostage.

There is no provision for secret voting on the DPR. But the groundswell of opinion from the floor - particularly for a secret ballot - evidently forced the politburo and the steering committee for the 22nd party congress to yield on the contentious sentence that ruled out "any understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress".

A secret vote could have driven a deep wedge in the party and also defeated the central committee's line.

The sentence has now been replaced with the provision that the CPM should fight the BJP without "having a political alliance with the Congress Party". This does not foreclose the option of an electoral understanding, which is what the Bengal unit and Yechury have been arguing for over the past eight months.

Asked how this new formulation would work out in the states, Yechury told reporters that the state units would develop their strategies locally out of this understanding. "That is the political line. The electoral line will be worked out on the basis of the political line at the time of elections."

In the CPM lexicon, even the kind of arrangement that the Samajwadi Party and the BSP had tried out for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections is not a political alliance. A political alliance, party whole-timers said, involves a joint programme, a common minimum programme and an agreement between all concerned to move together politically.

That the issue threatened to drive an irreconcilable wedge in the party is evident from what Karat said about the discussions on the DPR since Thursday.

"It is not a question of some words, 'understanding and alliance', as some delegates have stated. It is the approach of how best to fight the BJP-RSS and ensure their defeat. A large number of comrades asked the leadership to resolve the issue so as to go back from this (party) congress with the message of unity,'' he said.

The suspense over how the issue would be settled continued into the last session on the DPR, when the matter was to be put to vote through a show of hands.

A few hours earlier, Karat's reply to persistent questions from the media on whether the demand for a secret ballot would be entertained was: "There is no precedent but let's see what the party congress says."

Besides the demand from the floor, another issue that tilted the scales in favour of the Yechury line was the stand taken by former Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan and central committee member Ashok Dhawale, who is also president of the All India Kisan Sabha, which organised last month's Kisan Long March that shook the conscience of India's financial capital, Mumbai.

VS made it clear he would press for his amendment to the contentious clause. His amendment was that the CPM's priority should be to fight the BJP and not expend so much of energy on its relationship with the Congress.

Dhawale blunted the charge against Yechury of only indulging in tactical moves and not doing anything on the ground by flagging the Kisan Long March, which, by all accounts, became such a big success partly because of the behind-the-scenes support rendered by parties like the Congress and the NCP once it entered the metropolis.

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