The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi leads Congress on CPM tightrope

Siliguri, Aug. 1: The Congress high command favours improving its relations with the CPM in the state, AICC general secretary Salman Khursheed said here today.

Addressing a news conference in Siliguri on his way from Gangtok, Khursheed said the Congress would, however, not enter into a formal alliance with the CPM.

“An alliance with the CPM is not possible at this point of time. But certainly there is scope for exploring possibilities of increased cooperation with the state’s ruling party,” he said.

The Congress high command’s stance may not go down well with the party’s state unit, which is trying to replace Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress as the state’s main Opposition party.

Currently, Trinamul has 60 MLAs against the Congress’ 28. The Trinamul, however, suffered reverses in the recent panchayat and municipal elections, while the Congress improved its tally, bagging the Malda and Murshidabad zilla parishads.

Analysts said the party high command’s decision to “improve” relations with the CPM is part of its attempt to forge an alliance of secular parties to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Khursheed said the party high command had discussed the benefits of alliance with regional parties at national level in its recent conclave in Shimla.

“It is true that alliance is the need of the hour in some important states going to poll in a few months. But it should not be at the cost of the party,” he said.

The AICC leader said there was no difference in the party on the issue. “But at the same time, we have to take the local political compulsions into account.”

Khursheed said the Congress has decided to take up local issues, especially those related to development. “This, we feel, could stand the party in good stead in the future. We have underscored the need to address some core social issues.”

Criticising the BJP’s “communal” politics, Khursheed said Congress was trying to project an “alternative vision of social reality” to maintain communal harmony. “We need to make all-out efforts to protect the social fabric of our society, being torn apart by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.”

On the Sikkim Sangram Parishad’s proposed merger with the Congress, Khursheed, in charge of the party affairs in Sikkim, said no decision has yet been taken. “We had positive discussions with the SSP leadership.”

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