CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and party leaders ,Prakash Karat, Manik Sarkar and Brinda Karat at the party’s 21st National Congress in Visakhapatnam Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: According to Sitaram Yechury, the newly-elected general secretary of the Communist Part of India (Marxist), fighting the “twin threats of communalism and neoliberalism” — as posed by the establishment led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — will be the biggest challenge for the party in the days ahead.

Yechury was unanimously chosen as the CPM’s fifth general secretary at the party congress held at Vishakhapatnam yesterday, marking an end to the 10-year reign at the helm by erstwhile general secretary Prakash Karat.

Commenting on the kind of role that he envisaged for the party in the days ahead, Yechury, a Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal, said yesterday: “Return from this party congress with resolve and conviction that we shall fight, we shall win.”

Later yesterday, speaking to Gulf News from Vishakhapatnam, Mohammad Salim — a CPM member of parliament from Bengal, who was inducted into the party Politburo for the first time yesterday — said: “Regroup, rejuvenate and reorient. These are the buzzwords for the party now. With the rise of a communal force like Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Left politics in India is at a crossroads and we ought to chalk out a new game plan to counter communal and reactionary forces. We must get the masses to take to the streets in protest against such forces as BJP at the Centre and Trinamool Congress in Bengal. The turnaround has to happen now and Bengal can and should be the place to start with. This is the biggest challenge for Left politics in India today.”

Subhashini Ali, yet another first-time entrant in the politburo was of the view that the party has to strengthen its base by involving people from the backward classes in mass movements. “We must be strong from within by expanding the support base and the best way to do that is to protect the interest of the downtrodden against the neoliberalism trends sweeping the country,” Ali told Gulf News yesterday.

Taking a cue from Yechury’s speech at the party congress earlier in the day, Salim said the brand of neoliberalism as propounded by Modi and BJP will have to be countered on a war-footing. “India’s sociopolitical fabric faces a huge threat today from the communal and divisive politics of the BJP and the kind of neoliberalism that is being propagated by the prime minister.”

Asked whether CPM would be ready to join hands with other non-BJP parties for a grand alliance in the future, Salim said: “The Left has always offered an ideal platform for secular, democratic forces in India to come together and CPM is open to any such move that will help bring secular, democratic parties under one umbrella.”

However, when asked whether CPM would be open to such a grand alliance of like-minded parties even if it included the Congress, Salim’s tacit response was: “We will have to wait and see how things pan out with the Congress party, since it includes various elements that may not always speak in one voice. We will take a call on that at an opportune moment.”

In fact, there has been a raging debate within CPM ever since the party quit the first Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre over the nuclear deal with the US. While Karat was steadfast in his resolve to not join hands with the Congress citing issues of principle, Yechury held a softer and more pragmatic stance towards the Congress. He was not averse to including Congress in an alliance of secular forces, to keep BJP away from the corridors of power.

With Yechury’s elevation as the general secretary, CPM may well see a change of tack from the Karat doctrine in the days ahead.