Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Left lurches: Red card for Karat

17 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: He's a crime-fiction aficionado, but Saturday's plot against the CPM is one mystery he had never hoped to unravel. For the 61-year-old backroom boy, groomed by the likes of P Sundarraya, A K Gopalan and E M S Namboodiripad, this could be the most humbling moment of his career. Gone are the stream of visitors and, worse, his dream of cobbling up a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front.

On Monday, when the party's politburo meets, Karat could face a hard time from colleagues, many of whom have been privately questioning his method of functioning. The numbing defeat could be used by his detractors to pin all the blame on him.

But the man is staying calm at the moment. He dismissed Somnath Chatterjee's demand for his resignation in a sentence, "He is not even in the party. Why should I react?" He spoke to West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Kerala leaders for a preliminary report. Even on Saturday, while admitting that serious introspection was needed, Karat refused to link blame to individauls and handled questions calmly. But loss was written all over his face.

Karat's friends see an opportunity in this defeat. He can, they say, go back to the basics, bridge the divide between the party and its state governments, and deal with factionalism in Kerala and sloth in West Bengal.

Politburo meeting could herald a series of tough decisions. It remains to be seen if Karat prepares the party well for 2011 assembly elections. Till then, it's a long summer.

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