The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bitter Left places govt over budget
- Leaders crib over FDI, but opt to play responsible ally

New Delhi, July 10: The Left parties have decided not to pull the rug from under the United Progressive Alliance regardless of how upset they may feel over some of the Congress-led government’s economic policies.

Disappointment came this week when they had to swallow a bitter pill over the finance minister’s budget announcement of raising the foreign direct investment limit in the telecommunication, aviation and insurance sectors. More discomfort may be in the offing if the provident fund interest rate is slashed following the board of provident fund trustees’ meeting on Tuesday.

However, politics seems to have, as of now, taken precedence over economics.

“We have to think about the broad political context in which this government has come to power,” said M.K. Pandhe, the general secretary of Citu, an organisation that is always the last to say yes to any economic change. The Citu leader, who is also a CPM politburo member, said the party will not make any reckless move that will jeopardise the survival of the Manmohan Singh government.

“We are a responsible party. We will oppose the FDI policy in and outside Parliament. But there is no question of posing a threat to the continuance of the UPA government,” said CPM MP Nilotpal Basu.

One after another, every Left leader has intoned the same words. They are against the FDI policy but oppose the BJP more. “Our support to this government is based on a broad political view and not on the basis of our position on specific issues,” said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

In Parliament, the Left will not support the Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill that the government may bring to put into effect the new policy. “We will not support the bill,” said a senior leader of the CPM. The BJP will not oppose the bill as they were in favour of it. The Congress and the NDA together may, thus, be able to pass the bill.

The Left’s opposition to the bill will stall its passage but will not, in any case, pull down the government.

The Left’s opposition to FDI is not new and it may have to contend with more such situations. Arjun Singh, the human resource development minister, wants to introduce FDI in primary and higher education.

“We are opposed to FDI in primary education,” said CPI leader D. Raja. The human resource development minister is, however, confident of coaxing the Left to consider the proposals.

The Congress-led government has also chalked out a strategy to deal with its Left allies. Part of this includes paying more attention to education, health, drinking water and poverty alleviation schemes that the Left parties have been highlighting of late.

The finance minister would keep the Left happy with these goals while pushing through economic reforms, some of which may not be to the liking of the communists.

“There has to be a policy of give and take. The common minimum programme is a consensus document and not the document of any particular party,” rationalised a Left leader.

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