Denying Rajya Sabha seat to Yechury may backfire

Sitaram Yechury by Tarun Sehrawat (2)Noted Essayist Francis Bacon famously said that “It is a strange desire, to seek power and to lose liberty: or to seek power over others and to lose power over a man’s self”. This is what apparently happened in the case of CPI (M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury. At a time when the entire country expected Opposition to field its sharpest, brightest and most logical brains in Parliament, the comrades have committed a historic blunder by denying its General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury a Rajya Sabha seat. And Yechury has no choice being a disciplined comrade as he can’t go against the party norms. However, timing is of utmost importance as it has happened at a time when leftists are genuinely bereft of statesmen parliamentarians. Indeed comrades have gone by the rule book which denies more than two terms to anyone.

The CPI (M) General Secretary, Sitaram Yechury too has made it clear that he would not like to go against the established norms of the party by going for the third term. However, in the light of what happened in the past, one can come to a safe conclusion that the left has been on mistakes committing spree. The comrades first denied Jyoti Basu an opportunity to become Prime Minister on ‘ideological’ grounds and subsequently blocked Somnath Chatterjee from being nominated for the President’s post.

The left party’s refusal to permit Jyoti Basu to become the prime minister was termed a ‘historic blunder’ by Basu himself and he had correctly forecast that such an opportunity was not going to return any time soon. In these times when the opposition was required to stand united it was time for the party to show some flexibility by allowing Yechury to contest for a third term and thus avoid another ‘historic blunder.’

Man of wit and sarcasm

Without Yechury, Upper House will be missing sarcasm and wit, which have been hallmarks of this leader. After all Yechury is known for his negotiating skills and understanding rough and tumble of common life. Yechury is one of the most dynamic speakers in parliament and has shown that he can take on the current regime present disposition’s brute strength in Parliament. Equally at ease in both English and Hindi, he can speak on behalf of the entire opposition in Parliament and his logical arguments are listened with rapt attention by both ruling and opposition parliamentarians. Besides West Bengal, he equally shared a perfect rapport with Kerala cadre and being media savvy, he is now the most visible face of the Left.

Congress support

Party insiders point out that denial of Rajya Sabha seat to Yechury is the fallout of that bitterness in the CPM over the right approach to a coalition. The party seems to be involved in serious internal problems that could put a question mark on its survival as a key player in Indian politics. In recent years, the party has been losing strength in West Bengal and also in states where it had cadre and support, such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. Since its best electoral performance in parliament in 2004, the CPI(M) has steadily slid downwards.

Even as leading Opposition parties are strategising about a united front against the mighty BJP, including possibly putting up a common candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, the CPI(M) has barred Yechury, from seeking another term in the Upper House, which ends in August as it would have meant seeking support from Congress. But those opposed to a third term pointed out that he cannot return to Parliament on his own party’s strength and will need support from the Congress, which is positioned in West Bengal as a political rival. He could not have won without the support from the 44 legislators of Congress in the Bengal assembly.

It is worth mentioning that elections will be held for six Rajya Sabha seats from Bengal in August. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress can win five seats with ease. With 44 lawmakers, the Congress can win the sixth seat on its own but it has said it may not field anyone if Yechury seeks the third term to the Rajya Sabha. While most leaders from West Bengal were keen that Yechury be fielded for a third term, the CPM’s central committee,
the party’s highest executive body, which met in Delhi over three days recently voted against sending him to the upper house with the help of the Congress.

The final decision to deny Yechury a third term was taken by the CPM’s Politburo of which he is a member and the decision was only endorsed by the central committee. Within the party who favoured a third term for him argued that he is one of the most well-known and articulate faces of the party in Parliament and at a time when the Left is losing popular support even in its traditional stronghold West Bengal, Yechury brings the party to national relevance and so must continue in Parliament.

Marshaling opposition

With 26 MLAs in the 294-seat West Bengal state assembly, the CPI(M) did not have the numbers to guarantee its candidate’s victory in the RS polls. The Trinamool Congress, with 211 MLAs, could end up winning an extra seat if the Congress (44) and the CPI(M) don’t put up a joint candidate. The Left Front has only 32 legislators in West Bengal Assembly and needs 43 to win.

Naturally, It can only make it with Congress support. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi had consented to give Congress party’s Rajya Sabha seat from West Bengal to the CPI(M). It’s the only condition was that it will support only Yechury and none else. The rejection of the Congress offer would further reduce the Left’s strength in the upper house and devoid the country of a dynamic parliamentarian. Alas, the Left did not exercise the option to let go of Yechury as party general secretary and instead utilize him for marshaling opposition in Parliament by allowing him a third term in Rajya Sabha.