The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu calls Karat to reopen Left connection

New Delhi, April 14: With the BJP down and out, Chandrababu Naidu is again trying to change colour.

The Telugu Desam chief, who was a key ally of the BJP when it was in power, wants to go from saffron to red, the season's hot shade.

Naidu called up Prakash Karat soon after he took over as CPM general secretary from Harkishen Singh Surjeet on Monday. During the call, ostensibly made to congratulate Karat, Naidu said: 'We want to work together with you for the betterment of the country.'

Desam sources quoted Karat as replying: 'Yes, we will.' The CPM general secretary later clarified the statement, saying: 'If it is for the betterment of the country, how can we say no'

Sources said Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is also likely to call on Karat shortly to discuss the possibility of reviving the third front although the CPM is unlikely to encourage any serious bid at the moment.

Scotching media reports, sources said ADMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has not sought any meeting with Karat tomorrow. Even if she does, the CPM is in no mood to discuss a third front with her, they said.

After taking charge at the CPM's 18th congress, Karat said a third front to take on both the BJP and the Congress would emerge by 2008 when the next party congress is due and a year before the next general elections are scheduled.

The Desam, which was a partner of the Left in the United Front government, had dumped it in 1998 to team up with the BJP. It wants to switch sides again, but the CPM leadership appears disinclined.

Asked if Naidu would be invited to join the third front, Karat had ruled out the possibility. The general secretary said the party would not go fishing. He said the invitation would be purely based on the policies pursued by the parties.

Unlike pre-1998, the Left is now not comfortable with Naidu's image. He is seen as pro-US, pro-World Bank and pro-multinationals.

But the Desam is not giving up hope. Its politburo meeting on April 5 decided against a tie-up with the BJP at the state level while keeping the option open at the national level. The party will not have an alliance with the BJP for the municipal elections scheduled next month.

The Desam is unhappy with BJP chief L.K. Advani's espousal of Hindutva at the party's national executive meeting in Delhi on April 5 and 6 and feels the spat between the party and the RSS has further eroded its image.

As the Desam plans to distance itself from the BJP, in the rival camp, the TRS is threatening to move away from the Congress for not doing anything to carve out a Telengana state.

Following pressure from TRS chief and Union labour minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, the Centre set up a sub committee to look into the demand for a separate state. Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, telecommunications minister Dayanidhi Maran and rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh are part of the committee.

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