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'Reforms are required, but not the type initiated by the Congress and BJP'

June 5, 2008
Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, is an unusual politician, quite distinct from the current lot of Indian politicians. Much in contrast to the Lalu Prasad Yadavs, Sharad Pawars and Kamal Naths of our political world.

Karat was born in 1948 in Burma where his father Chundoli Padmanabhan Nair worked in the Burma Railways. The family returned to Madras when Karat was 9, where he studied and graduated from the Madras Christian College, later winning a scholarship to Edinburgh University.

He wanted to become an engineer, but ended up being a staunch Marxist. Moving to New Delhi to work for the CPI-M, he enrolled at Jawaharlal Nehru University and contested the student union election, leaving an enduring impact that turned the JNU campus into a Marxist bastion.

We won't withdraw support to UPA: Karat

In November 1975, he married fellow comrade Brinda after taking permission from the party and his mother. Brinda Karat is a member of the Rajya Sabha and the first woman in the male-dominated CPI-M Politburo.

A voracious reader, Karat also likes to read crime fiction. His favourite writers are the Scot Ian Rankin and American Michael Connelly. Dubbed as a bookworm, he is known as someone who does not have the experience of the rough terrain of electoral politics. He has never fought any significant election and is considered to be quite the opposite of Harkishan Singh Surjeet, his predecessor as CPI-M general secretary. Surjeet was flexible, pragmatic and knew the dark side of mainstream political parties. Karat is reputedly inflexible, more transparent and enjoys impeccable credibility even outside his party.

Image: Prakash Karat, after a CPI-M politburo meeting in Kolkata, October 1, 2007. Photograph: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: Brinda Karat: An exclusive interview

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