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The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday voted against party chief Sitaram Yechury getting a third Rajya Sabha term, which is set to not only reduce its numbers in the Upper House but debilitate its efforts to play a catalyst of Opposition unity in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. According to sources, in the 91-member Central Committee, over 50 members voted against their party chief getting a third consecutive Rajya Sabha term, while 30-odd supported the move. The CPI (M)’s Kerala and West Bengal units were split over whether the party should allow a third Rajya Sabha term to Yechury. The Bengal unit had argued that not allowing Yechury a third term would be nothing short of yet another ‘historic blunder’. Jyoti Basu had famously termed CPI (M)’s refusal to allow him to head the United Front government in 1996 as a ‘historic blunder’. The Kerala unit, considered a closer to former general secretary Prakash Karat, pointed to party norms that bar a member from being elected to the Upper House for the third time. The CPI (M) politburo had already rejected the possibility. It was argued that the party shouldn’t get its chief elected to Rajya Sabha with the help of Congress, which is its principal rival in Kerala.
Taking support from the Congress also went against the party’s political-tactical line, the Kerala unit had argued.But the Bengal unit had insisted that in the current political scenario, when the party has its back to the wall, Yechury’s presence in Parliament would help CPI (M) to continue punch above its weight and might even spur its revival. Yechury had said he does not want to flout party norms but the Bengal unit had insisted that the issue be taken up at its Central Committee meeting. Six Rajya Sabha members, including Yechury, are set to retire from Bengal by the end of the monsoon session. Given its strength in the Bengal assembly, Trinamool Congress is set to win five of the six seats. The Left Front has 32 MLAs, including 26 of the CPI(M), in the West Bengal assembly, which is insufficient to send Yechury or any other Left leader to the Rajya Sabha again. However, with the support of Congress' 44 MLAs, Yechury could have been re-elected. The Congress leadership, and its legislators in West Bengal, favoured supporting Yechury’s candidature. It is now likely that a Congress candidate, with the support of additional Trinamool Congress votes, could be elected.