NEW DELHI: For the first time, a Dalit might head the Communist Party of India (CPI) at the national level. Its secretary for many years, D Raja from Tamil Nadu, is likely to take over as General Secretary, the top post in the party, from S Sudhakar Reddy who is now midway through his third consecutive term. The national secretariat and national executive of the CPI have cleared Raja’s name for the top post, despite some resistance, and a formal decision is expected soon.
General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy from the Telugu region based in Hyderabad has made it clear that he does not want to continue in the post due to health reasons. He could have carried on for two more years in this term but wants to exit right now. He made his request in May after the poor performance of the CPI in the LS polls. He said he wanted to take the responsibility for this.
The going is not good for the Communists across the nation. CPI’s trade union wing, the AITUC, held supreme in the railways, ports, postal sectors for decades, but is battered of late. This is affecting the funds flow to the party. There are also suggestions that the two communist parties merge into one – long after their split in 1962, a time when one side led by EMS Namboodiripad was patronized by the Chinese Communist Party and the other side led by then party general secretary SA Dange by the Soviet Communists. Now, neither Russia nor China shows much interest in tie-up with communist parties outside of their countries.
D Raja is the senior-most leader and has a national profile too. He hails from Chennai and is an advocate by profession. However, he too does not have much to crow about. He has failed to improve the prospects of the party in the state, and so did Reddy whose leadership did not help revive the fortunes of the reds in both the Telugu states. The 77-year-old Reddy is a former MP, and so is Raja, 69, who was helped into Rajya Sabha by J Jayalalithaa twice. His last term ends in two months’ time.
Reddy held the post of general secretary for three terms after the exit of AB Bardhan in 2012. Raja is national secretary of the CPI since 1994. The elitists in the CPI, prominently those from Kerala, are not enthused about handing over the leadership to Raja. Raja is a Dalit, and the only Dalit who rose in the ranks of the two Communist parties to top level ever. He did so by his grit and determination.
The Kerala comrades, fattened by forays in power for decades, are reportedly trying to put a spoke into Raja’s wheel. Some of them are pressing Sudhakar Reddy to continue and proposed even P Narayana for the post if Reddy was keen on quitting. A cool-framed leader, Narayana specializes in issuing press statements and media appearances, as does Sitaram Yechury.
Meanwhile, reports emerged that the CPI might lose its national party status. It lost much clout in Tamil Nadu, Manipur and West Bengal, besides Bihar where it once was a force to reckon with. In the present Lok Sabha polls, the party drew a blank everywhere, including Kerala, except for two seats it won in Tamil Nadu. The CPIM too won two seats in Tamil Nadu, besides one seat — Alappuzha – in Kerala. West Bengal was a washout for both the communist parties in the present LS polls. So was Tripura.
In Kerala, the CPI won 19 seats in the 2016 Assembly polls. In Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, it won one seat each in the 2016 polls, a status note prepared by the Election Commission noted. In Manipur, it got no seat in the 2017 Assembly polls. MLA seats and votes thereof in the polling in these states, besides Kerala, had helped the party hold itself aloft as a national party. As per EC rule, “A political party can only be considered as a ‘national party’ as long as its vote share is no less than six per cent in the Assembly polls in four states.” –IHN-NN
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