CPI(M) leaders in Kerala have been vocal about increasing the left camp’s strike force in Parliament. They have a two-pronged strategy in mind. The obvious part is an increase in the number of left MPs. Equally important is a leadership that can act efficiently and qualitatively. On both counts, Kerala is the only hope for the CPI(M). Who will lead the party’s parliamentary team this time? The party leadership has this question in mind when it sits to peruse through the list of probable candidates.
Muhammed Salim from Bengal is the only politburo member among the CPI(M) MPs. When he contested the general election in 2014 he was not a member of the politburo. He was elevated to the high platform in 2015 to ensure that a politburo member was present in Parliament to steer the party’s activities.
The CPI(M) is not at all hopeful of retaining the two Lok Sabha seats it won in Bengal in 2014. Even an understanding with the Congress may be of little help because the party is in direct confrontation with the CPI(M) in both the constituencies.
The CPI(M) did not have a politburo member in the Lok Sabha all the time yet a senior leader was always present in the Rajya Sabha. That presence has been done away with since the denial of a seat for party general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
In this scenario, the CPI(M) looks up to Kerala to get a politburo member to the Lok Sabha next year. The politburo meeting on February 8 and 9 is expected to take up the candidate selection.
Two obvious choices from Kerala are M A Baby and S Ramachandran Pillai. Ramachandran Pillai has already expressed his wish to retire from active politics.
The CPI(M) wanted Baby to be in the Lok Sabha in 2014 even though he was a member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. Now Baby is a natural choice since he is no longer an MLA. Pundits suggest that Baby may be offered Ernakulam or Alappuzha but both of the seats are held by the Congress. The party would not like to offer a rickety seat for its politburo member as happened in 2014.
Why not Prakash Karat himself? The former general secretary traces his roots to Kerala. The CPM can easily get him elected from the state. However, Karat has said a firm no to a parliamentary career. He declined an offer to replace Yechury in the Rajya Sabha. That paved the way for Elamaram Kareem to get elected to the Rajya Sabha from Kerala.
Karat, however, will have to reconsider his position if the CPI(M) insists on having a strong voice in Parliament to expose both the Congress and the BJP. His comrades do not foresee such a situation. Yet some observers do not rule out the possibility of the Kerala unit of the party putting up such a proposal.
The state secretariat of the party was in favour of offering a Rajya Sabha seat to Cherian Philip when the top leaders suggested central committee member Elamaram Kareem. The state secretariat went into recess to take up the suggestion from Delhi.
Yechury, however, is unlikely to show the same enthusiasm for Karat, who was instrumental in denying Yechury a third term in the upper house.
The CPI(M) has to frame its equations carefully if it does not want a situation in which a member of its top forum does not find a way to Parliament.