Yechury gets an emotional farewell

A teary-eyed Ramgopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party choking for words, Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad wondering why cannot CPI(M) changes its rules, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva who cannot see anyone else in seat No 126 and Akali Dal’s Naresh Gujaral wondering about the Left party’s another ‘historic blunder’.

Rajya Sabha on Thursday witnessed an emotional farewell for CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, whose term ends on August 18, as leaders cutting across party lines virtually targeted his party for not renominating him while showering praises on him.

Along with Yechury, two others – BJP’s Dilip Pandya and Trinamool Congress’ Debabrata Bandyopadhyay – are also not returning to the House while six other retiring MPs were re-elected.

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From Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who “literally grew (with Yechury) together” from student days to Parliament, to arch-rival Derek O’Brien and Yadav, who sits next to the CPI(M) leader, all spoke in unison why Yechury should be back in the House.

“Yechury had made valuable contribution to Parliament through every debate. He raised the level of every debate and others had to measure up to his standards,” Jaitley said adding he hoped to see him back in the House sooner.

In a lighter vein, he said Yechury never had an opportunity to be in the government and that is why he has the privilege of giving “idealistic and unimplementable” suggestions. He said probably Yechury would come up with more pragmatic suggestions if “this vacuum is filled”.

Azad described Yechury as a “national treasure” and wondered why CPI(M) cannot change its rules of not allowing more than two terms for Rajya Sabha MP. Yadav also echoed, “country’s Constitution can be changed, then why can’t CPI(M)’s Constitution?”

Yadav also recalled a conversation he had with CPI(M) veteran Harkishen Singh Surjeet who told him to watch out for the “bright” Yechury. “Yechury, we will remember….,” Yadav said as he broke down and stopped his speech mid-way.

Congress had offered its lone seat in West Bengal to CPI(M) if it fielded Yechury as his presence would add to Opposition fire power but the party’s Central Committee decided against it with a faction led by Prakash Karat strongly opposing Bengal unit’s demand.

In his speech, Yechury spoke about the post-truth era and said one needs to come back to the reality of farmer suicides, youth feeling insecure, unemployment and other issues. “Let is not get into issues of ruptures,” he said.

There were also lighter moments when Congress’ Jairam Ramesh narrated how they drafted the Common Minimum Programmes of the United Front government in 1996 and UPA in 2004.

“Yechury was responsible, of course, for the troubles that both the Governments had. I
used to often refer to him not as Sitaram Yechury, but as Sitaram ‘Obituary’, because he was the one who wrote the ‘obituary’ for both the UPA Governments in a way but, certainly, for UPA-I when the Left Front withdrew support on the 123 Agreement,” Ramesh said.

Yechury countered saying Ramesh did not tell the whole story and he used to call the Congress MP Jairam Mortuary. “If his policies are followed, your party will be in mortuary,” Yechury said as Jaitley quipped, “Jairam has not changed. He continue to write obituaries.”

While leaders like AIADMK’s Navaneethakrishnan and CPI’s D Raja recalled Yechury as an inspiring and role model, Siva said, “we will only see Sitaram Yechury in that seat No 126.”

Gujral said CPI(M) was committing another “historic blunder”, a coinage by CPI(M)’s Jyoti Basu on party’s decision not to allow to become Prime Minister, by denying a renomination for Yechury.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 11, 2017)

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