VISAKHAPATNAM:It was a nail-biting finish. After a close and tense race that ran for days, the suave and politically savvy Telugu bidda Sitaram Yechury — the second youngest politburo (PB) member, 62, — was elected unanimously as the CPM’s new general secretary on the last day of the Party Congress in Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
Yechury won in a photofinish on a day when his main opponent, the 77-year-old S Ramachandra Pillai aka SRP, stood a chance to win till the morning.
Yechury becomes the fifth general secretary of the party, succeeding his contemporary Prakash Karat, who served three terms as the party chief and seemed to have had differences with Yechury on the party’s tactical line, finally proposed his name for the post.
The central committee approved it after SRP seconded the same. It was the prospect of a contest — and a secret ballot at that — which finally ensured the coveted post for Yechury. Neither the contenders nor Karat were keen on seeing a bitter division within the party by going for vote.
The Bengal lobby’s adamant support for Yechury, by far the most popular contender nationally, tilted the scales even as the PB meeting stretched past midnight into Sunday without reaching any consensus.
SRP, informally backed by Karat, had the support of the powerful Kerala lobby, led by state strongman Pinarayi Vijayan. Party leaders say SRP, besides being 15 year older that the new chief, also has the disadvantage of not being fluent in Hindi. Yechury supporters argued that he has mass appeal and support of the youth.
“Addressing the gathering after his election, the new general secretary described the 21st CPM meet as a ‘congress for the future of the party, of India and of Left unity.’