Kolkata: During the three-day central committee meeting which concluded in Kolkata on Sunday, Sitaram Yechury offered to step down as the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, after it emerged that his proposal to align with the Congress didn’t have majority support even within the politburo, the party’s highest decision-making forum.

Ahead of the party congress to be held in April, the central committee had met in Kolkata to discuss if allying with the Congress was an option. The general secretary was rooting for an alliance with the Congress to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the key political force to resist, but his proposal was struck down by a vast majority of central committee members.

A vote was taken on Sunday, which Yechury wanted to avoid, said two leaders of the party, who asked not to be named. Of the 90 members who attended the meeting, 55 voted against and 31 in favour of Yechury’s proposal. Those opposed to Yechury’s proposal were in agreement with him that BJP is the main political enemy, but they were opposed to allying with the Congress.

This group, led by former general secretary Prakash Karat, were of the view that the Congress and BJP are not much different in terms of their economic policies and that the Congress has in the past taken a “soft stand" on communal matters, said the leaders cited above. The Congress has always been seen by the CPM as a “ruler’s party", they added.

To avoid the voting on Sunday, which showed division within the party, the matter was previously discussed in the politburo as well, but even at this forum, Yechury’s proposal was struck down by a majority of members, albeit a thinner one—31 to 26.

At a press conference on Sunday, Yechury said it has for long been the CPM’s stand that the party would not ally with the Congress, but “appropriate tactics" will be considered at the time of elections.

Such a resolution has been drafted at the three-day meeting and is to be sent to the party congress for further discussion based on which the CPM will decide its roadmap for the next three years. “It is time to mobilise all secular democratic forces" to contain the BJP, Yechury added.

“The inclusion of the appropriate tactics in the draft resolution keeps an escape hatch open," said one of the two leaders cited above. Yechury’s proposal had the support of the central committee members from West Bengal. The CPM had in West Bengal got into a seat sharing arrangement with the Congress for the 2016 assembly election but it didn’t help.

The meeting that concluded in Kolkata on Sunday clearly showed that CPM will be led, at least until the party congress in April, by a general secretary who does not have majority support for a key political decision which may chart the future of the party, said the two leaders cited above.

The CPM normally holds its party congress once every three years to discuss its future roadmap and to select a new leader. Yechury replaced Karat as the general secretary at the last party congress. It is not clear if he is going seek another term or step down.