M A I N   N E W S

Karat takes over CPM reins, Brinda in Politburo
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 11
The CPM today elected party ideologue Prakash Karat as the new General Secretary, bringing about a generational change in the party leadership in a move to give a new direction to the Indian Communist movement in the 21st century.

Amid applause and ‘lal salaam’ slogans, the 85-member party Central Committee unanimously chose Karat (56) General Secretary, making him the chief at a time when the party extends crucial support to the country’s year-old coalition government.

As Harkishen Singh Surjeet, outgoing chief, retained as Politburo member in view of his vast experience, looked on, delegates attending the 18th party congress raised slogans heralding the arrival of a new era in a party that was set up in 1964 but traces its origins to the 1920s.

Karat, a leader from Kerala, took over the reins from Surjeet, who stepped down from the post on health grounds at the end of the six-day 18th party congress here.

Surjeet, now 89, and 91-year-old former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, had offered to quit from the Politburo. However, the party refused to accept the request of the two leaders.

The party also opened a new chapter by including Ms Brinda Karat as the first woman member in the Politburo.

Prakash’s wife, Brinda, had a couple of years ago created a flutter demanding the presence of women in crucial decision-making body of the party.

Karat, whose tough line on the party not accepting the prime ministership when it was offered to Basu in 1996 to head a United Front government, earned him the sobriquet of a hardliner.

Immediately after the election today he said the party would fight the twin challenge of communalism and the neo-liberal economic policies.

He said he was not satisfied that the CPM was the largest Left party in the country and the third largest in Parliament. “We want to make the CPM a strong all-India party,” he said.

Pointing towards the “generational change” in the party, the new General Secretary said, “Our leaders, unlike in other parties, do not want to cling to a position. But he (Jyoti Basu) compelled us three years ago to accept his resignation as Chief Minister of West Bengal.”

He said both Basu and Surjeet, described as the “legends of the Indian Communist movement”, had made written requests to the Politburo to relieve them of their responsibility due to failing health.

But the new Politburo declined to accept their request, saying, “we continue to cherish their leadership and look up to them for guidance”, Karat said, adding that these two leaders were among the founding nine Politburo members or ‘navratnas’ when the CPM was formed in 1964. “They are the builders not only of the CPM, but also the Communist movement in India”.

The new Politburo comprises Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu, Prakash Karat, V.S. Achuthanandan, S. Ramachandran Pillai, Sitaram Yechury, R. Umanath, M.K. Pandhe, Biman Basu, Anil Biswas, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Pinarayi Vijayan and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

The four new members elected to the Politburo are Chittabrata Majumdar, K. Varadarajan, B.V. Raghavulu and Brinda Karat. The congress also elected an 85-member new Central Committee.

Karat thanked E. Balanandan, P. Ramachandran and Kortala Satyanaraian for resigning from the Politburo to pave the way for the four fresh entrants.

The 85-member Central Committee has 20 new members, including two from Punjab. They are Lehmbar Singh Thaggar and Charan Singh Virdhi. The committee has kept one seat from Kerala vacant. It would be filled later.

The party has appointed nine women members to the Central Committee, including three new members. The party has elected five members to the Central Control Commission and four persons, including two women, have been named as special invitees to the Central Committee.

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