The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM to back Congress in elections
- It is the only Opposition party which has an all-India presence: Basu

Calcutta, Aug. 4: The CPM will support the Congress in the Assembly elections in five states slated for the year-end without pressing for a matching gesture in terms of a share of seats in the interest of Opposition unity in the Lok Sabha polls, politburo member Jyoti Basu has said.

Basu said the politburo would meet on August 11-12 in Delhi to discuss Opposition unity before a decision was taken on the timing of the Parliament elections.

“There is nothing clandestine about our support to the Congress because it is the only Opposition party which has an all-India presence, a secular outlook and can lead a coalition,” Basu said in an interview to The Telegraph.

Basu is expected to play, as before, an important role in stitching up Opposition unity. He said the CPM, though weak in the poll-bound states, would like to put up candidates if the Congress left for it a certain number of seats. Elections are to be held in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram.

“We would like to have a few seats for our candidates, but our commitment to the Congress will not suffer if our demand is not accommodated. Let’s be practical, without the Congress, the Opposition cannot hope to fight the BJP.”

Basu was quick to point out that the CPM would not join any Congress-led coalition at the Centre should the occasion arise.

“It is not a question of my endorsing the idea,” Basu said. “My party leadership as a whole would not accept it. At best, it could join a core committee.” In this context, he reaffirmed that the party’s decision rejecting the proposal for a CPM-led coalition was “indeed a historic blunder”.

The coming politburo meeting will also review the current talks among Opposition parties on some sort of unity against the BJP. The CPM would try to impress upon the Congress the need for quicker initiatives to create a joint platform. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s shedding of earlier reservations about Sonia Gandhi has made unity easier.

The CPM and its allies are hoping to peel away a few important constituents of the NDA, which might have been concerned at the BJP’s recent statements on Ayodhya or are drifting away.

“We have reasons to believe that several NDA constituents are feeling distressed, even alarmed at the BJP’s stress on the Ram temple. A few, I am told, have shown willingness to discuss common concerns in view of the elections,” Basu said.

An old advocate of collaboration with the Congress, Basu said he was not sure that the BJP-led Centre would be able to hold simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections because there were several hurdles. But when the Lok Sabha elections do take place, it will be a war of personalities — Atal Bihari Vajpayee against Sonia.

Basu reckoned that the BJP would seek to capitalise on two issues: Ayodhya and Sonia’s foreign origin.

“Her assessment should be done in the context of her contribution to the preservation of the Congress and not on the strength of her origin. The voter must be allowed to form a judgement instead of us imposing our views on the subject,” Basu said.

Sharad Pawar and a few other Congress politicians had complained to him that Sonia’s foreign origin bothered them and left the party only to change their mind later, Basu added. “I told Sharad that it (foreign origin) was a small issue and, frankly, his party would have elected him as the supreme leader had he been a natural for the chair.”

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