The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu asks allies to back secular Cong

Calcutta, Feb. 2: Jyoti Basu today called upon two key Left Front partners, the RSP and the Forward Bloc, to toe the CPM’s support-Congress line to oust the BJP from the Centre.

The RSP and the Bloc leaderships had earlier annoyed the CPM by refusing to extend support to the Congress and deciding on maintaining “equidistance” from the Congress and the BJP.

At the politburo and central committee meetings in Hyderabad, the CPM adopted a resolution saying it would even campaign for Congress nominees in areas where the Left is not a force to reckon with.

On returning from the Andhra Pradesh capital, Basu, a politburo member, said he will initiate dialogue with the two front constituents so that they reconsider their “rigid stand” on the Congress.

“The Congress, with its secular credentials, should not be equated with the BJP. And that is why there is no harm if we back the party from outside to help it return to power at the Centre,” Basu said.

The former chief minister feels the “conflicting approach” of the Left parties towards the Congress in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections might send a wrong signal to the voters. “We have to be realistic in the wake of the BJP’s emergence as a political force. Against this backdrop, we must extend our support to the Congress to keep the communal forces at bay,” said Basu.

He was certain that this bonhomie with the Congress at the national level would not create confusion in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, where the Sonia Gandhi-led party is in the Opposition. In the three states, Basu said, the CPM may fight on its own.

However, the CPM patriarch ruled out an “electoral alliance” with the Congress. He also rejected the possibility of the CPM joining the government in the event of a Congress win in the general elections.

The RSP and the Bloc leaders, though, asserted that they would not change their stand even “risking the CPM’s wrath”.

“Basu is welcome to discuss the matter (backing the Congress) with us. But we cannot change our stance overnight and toe the CPM’s line,” said senior RSP leader and former PWD minister Kshiti Goswami.

Bloc’s Jayanta Roy echoed Goswami. “We consider the Congress and the BJP bourgeois parties that are opposed to the welfare of the poor and the working class. We shall stick to our stand on the two parties,” he said.

In defiance of the CPM, the Bloc leadership today named its candidate for the Cooch Behar parliamentary seat. Amar Roy Pradhan, who had won all general elections from there since 1977, was expelled from the Bloc in 2001 but the CPM wanted him to contest as an Independent backed by the front.

“Roy Pradhan was expelled on charges of anti-party activities and that is why we have put up Hiten Burman, the chairman of our peasants’ wing, as the front candidate from Cooch Behar,” Roy said.

Bloc sources said there was pressure on the party from the CPM to renominate Roy Pradhan as the front Big Brother thought he had better poll prospects.

The CPM, it is learnt, has all but decided on Rabin Deb, the party’s MLA from Ballygunge, as the man to fight Mamata Banerjee in Calcutta South.

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