Prakash Karat was born in Letpadan, Burma on February 7, 1948. His father worked in the Burma Railways, where he had sought employment during the British Raj. Prakash Karat is a Malayali, as his family hailed from Elappully, Palakkad, Kerala. Prakash Karat married Brinda Karat, then a party colleague, in 1975. Brinda worked in the Air India office in London, before she became a CPI(M) fulltime cadre. Brinda has also risen through the party ranks and is a member of the Politburo. Brinda Karat hails from the state of Bengal. The Karats have no children, by choice.
Karat studied in the Madras Christian College School in Chennai. He went to the Madras Christian College as an undergraduate student in Economics, where he won the prize for the best all round student on graduation. He got a scholarship to Britain’s University of Edinburgh, for a Masters degree in politics. In 1970 he received an MSc degree from Edinburgh University for the thesis “Language and politics in modern India”.
His political activism began with anti-apartheid protests at the University, for which he was rusticated. The rustication was suspended on good behaviour. Karat returned to India in 1970 and joined the premier institution, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and thereafter Communist Party of India (Marxist). He began working as an aide to the party leader A K Gopalan, the legendary communist leader from Kerala. He was the Secretary of the Delhi State Committee of the CPI(M) from 1982 to 1985. Prakash Karat was elected to the Central Committee of the CPI (M) in 1985 and became a member of the ‘Politburo’ in 1992. He took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 2005 at the 18th Congress of the Party held in Delhi
Since 1992, Karat has been on the editorial board of CPI(M)’s academic journal, The Marxist. He is also the managing director of Leftword. He is the author of five books.