THEY are alleged to be the "glamour boys" of the party; the articulate, comparatively young, future of the party leadership. Politburo members Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury get very irritated at this description of them by what the CPI(M) refers to as the "bourgeois press". Perhaps justifiably so. But whether they like it or not, they are increasingly going to be the focus of the media as the CPI(M) attempts to increase its sphere of influence in national politics. The run-up to and the aftermath of the formation of the United Front government is only the beginning.
Karat was the founder-president of the JNU students union, one of the most vibrant organisations in the country. Yechury took over from him. Old-timers from JNU say Karat, a student of history at Madras Christian College and later Edinburgh University, was a party whole-timer before joining JNU and he built the partys youth wingthe Students Federation of Indiathere. Yechury, on the other hand, came to JNU after a B.A. from St Stephens and consolidated the SFIs hold on the students union, attracting a number of new communists are coming around to the view that both Karat and Yechury will, some time in the future, be in the running for the post of party general secretary. It is speculation. But in the words of a senior CPI leader: "Though I personally dont think it is worth writing about, the fact remains that at present it looks like the successor to Surjeet will be decided between the two of them." The CPI(M) has always maintained that unlike in bourgeois parties, its leadership is collective and the first among equals in the politburothe party general secretaryreflects the will of the party cadres. The accepted norm is that the general secretary steps down from office either if his health prevents him from discharging his duties or if his political-tactical line is defeated. Surjeet, despite criticism among party hardliners, sources feel, is unlikely to be replaced because of this. Though he may just find that it isnt all smooth sailing at the next party congress scheduled for 1998.
While both Karat and Yechury have been a part of the policies and tactics adopted by the CPI(M) over the past two years, there are subtle differences. Karat is known as an organisation man who is extra-cautious in his approachhe strongly argued against the participation of the CPI(M) in the UF Government. Yechury, equally adept in organisational matters, has also been dealing with other political parties and though he too was not enamoured by the idea of a CPI(M)-led Central Government, he certainly is more comfortable with the Surjeet line. When it comes down to the crunch though, both of them are recognised to have the political maturity to work in tandem.