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UNITED IN REASON

It is not uncommon for political opponents to unite on foreign policy issues. It often becomes an imperative in times of perceived threats to national security. Even so, it is interesting to note how the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which otherwise belong to opposite poles in national politics, have closed ranks on some issues relating to Bangladesh. So identical are the views that it is easy to mistake a statement by the deputy prime minister, Mr L.K. Advani, on illegal immigration of Bangladeshis into India for one by West Bengalís chief minister, Mr Buddhadev Bhattacharjee. Tripuraís Marxist chief minister, Mr Manik Sarkar, worries about the Bangladeshi bases of some militant groups in the Northeast in much the same language as Mr Advani or his minister of state, Mr I.D. Swamy. Mr Advani and Mr Bhattacharjee not only express the same fear of subversive operations by Pakistanís Inter-Services Intelligence, but they also compliment each other on their unity of purpose and action. The sangh parivar found a kindred soul in Mr Bhattacharjee also when he sang their known tune on the need to reform the madrasah education.

This has been possible because the CPI(M) seems to have changed track and accepted certain irrefutable facts. It is true that even West Bengalís former chief minister, Mr Jyoti Basu, had admitted to the influx from Bangladesh and to ISI threats in the eastern region. But Mr Basu never sounded like Mr Advani. On the contrary, both he and his party would often accuse the BJP of exaggerating the threats for communal gains. Mr Bhattacharjee could no longer afford to gloss over the issues after dramatic changes in Indiaís security perceptions in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America on September 11, 2001. The attacks on the Indian parliament in December that year and outside the American Center in Calcutta the next month finally forced the chief minister to see eye to eye with Mr Advani. In Tripura too, the Marxists joined the Union governmentís anti-Dhaka rhetoric as their cadre faced increasing attacks by militant groups based across the border. There is a clear message in the changed Marxist position ó party games that politicians play have to stop when they change into rulers . Sceptics can still argue that Mr Bhattacharjee has fallen prey to the saffron strategy to get political mileage from real or imaginary security issues. But the fact remains that he has overcome narrow political calculations to see reasons of state policy.

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