CPM's new chief Yechury vows merger with CPI

One of the most recognisable faces of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sitaram Yechury, on Sunday succeeded Prakash Karat as the general secretary of his party (See:Yechuri may be best bet to revive CPI-M's flagging fortunes).

Yechuri has the image of being a sober and pragmatic leader, unlike his dogmatic and often abrasive predecessor Karat. One of his first statements on taking over was that his party would soon merge with the Communist Party of India, ending a decades-old split to create a truly united Left Front.

"Merger is still on cards," the 62-year-old leader told reporters after his elevation on Sunday. ''There is no time-frame ... but we are trying for the merger to happen at the earliest. It may take two months or six months. But it will happen definitely; and that is our determination and also our promise''.

Yechury was elected as the fifth general secretary following a series of dramatic developments in the run-up to the crucial election at the 21st party Congress which concluded in Visakhapatnam.

S Ramachandran Pillai, whose name was proposed by outgoing general secretary Prakash Karat at a three-hour marathon meeting of the politburo on Saturday, backed out when Yechury received the full support of powerful West Bengal members including Biman Bose and the Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar.

Despite having an edge in CPI-M politburo, especially with the Kerala unit's backing, Pillai informed Karat that he was not prepared for a contest and his name need not be proposed before the new panel. In fact he seconded Yechuri's candidature at the meeting – perhaps aware that despite the Kerala backing, he could lose an election heavily.

As it transpired, Yechuri's choice was unanimous.