Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Nation - Kumkum Chadha let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

For some­one who is a fire­brand com­mu­nist, the name Si­taram does not quite fit. “I was named Si­tara­ma­rao, af­ter my grand­fa­ther, but I dropped the caste ti­tle [Rao] and car­ried on with my name. So Si­taram it has re­mained. In any case as Shake­speare pointed out, what is in a name?” said the CPI(M)’s Si­taram Yechury while bat­tling sleep af­ter a hec­tic cross-coun­try tour.

But Yechury was not com­fort­able with the sa­cred thread be­queathed to him when he was 11. It clung to his skin till one day he put it away in his hos­tel cupboard among his dirty clothes. Telling his fa­ther what he had done was noth­ing short of “blas­phemy,” Yechury now says.

A Tel­ugu-speak­ing Brah­min, Yechury spent the early years of his life in Andhra Pradesh. Till he left his home for Delhi and St. Stephen’s Col­lege, fol­lowed by Jawa- har­lal Nehru Univer­sity. Yechury was like any other stu­dent, “a reg­u­lar kind of guy” whose goal was to study and land a job.

In­stead, he took to pol­i­tics, start­ing off as a stu­dent leader. Dur­ing the Emer­gency, he went un­der­ground but was twice lucky: once, when his fa­ther was in hospi­tal and Yechury spent the nights tak­ing care of him. The cops looked ev­ery­where but not the hospi­tal, the “most un­likely place for any­one to hide,” Yechury said. When the doc­tors told him to take his dad home, Yechury got cold feet: “It was both good and bad news: good be­cause my fa­ther was well enough to go home and bad be­cause my hid­ing place, the hospi­tal, was gone.” Ex­pect­edly, the next morn­ing the cops came to get him but luck was on his side yet again. The SHO who ar­rested him made a mis­take and in­stead of charg­ing him un­der MISA, he charged him with a bail­able of­fence. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of this, Yechury was soon out.

That Yechury is a smoker is well known. Dur­ing breaks in Par­lia­ment ses­sions, he is among the few who make a dash to the smok­ing room. What, how­ever, is lit­tle known is how he got into the habit. “Way back, smok­ing was a sign of man­li­ness. In ev­ery film, the pro­tag­o­nist dan­gled a cig­a­rette. So the first step to be­ing a man was to smoke”, Yechury says.

Pol­i­tics has taken away his me-time but he does try and snatch mo­ments to lis­ten to songs by Shamshad Begum like Ka­jra mo­hab­bat wala, even while he eats out of a dabba, his cha­p­at­tis rolled in news­pa­per. Hav­ing con­verted his of­fi­cial res­i­dence into a party of­fice, Yechury lives in Vas­ant


Kunj where even as an MP he has queued up at wa­ter-tankers when the taps ran dry.

Dur­ing his two terms in the Ra­jya Sabha, Yechury was counted as one of the best speak­ers, of­ten putting the govern­ment on the mat. He soon emerged as the face of the party. When his party’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee voted against his get­ting a third term, it was dubbed a “his­toric blun- der.” Apart from the prin­ci­ple of not let­ting any­one get a third term, it was in­ter­nal ri­valry that did Yechury in.

In­ci­den­tally, in the be­gin­ning, he didn’t even know what “House” meant (the ter­mi­nol­ogy used for the Lok Sabha and Ra­jya Sabha). When he was asked to go to the “house” to take his oath he won­dered why they were ask­ing him to go home!


When he gets time, Yechury puts on his head­phones to lis­ten to Shamshad Begum songs

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