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A call Karat can’t recall

June 28: The Congress is working the phone but the CPM would not like to give the impression that it is spoiling Sonia Gandhi’s holiday in Shimla.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rang up Prakash Karat and tried to smooth feathers ruffled by the Bhel divestment proposal, the Congress said Sonia, too, dialled the CPM leader.

The call ' made from Himachal Pradesh where Sonia is taking a break with daughter Priyanka ' was brief, a senior Congress leader said. The Congress president told Karat she would soon discuss with Left leaders issues they had raised in a letter on Sunday.

The Left had said in the letter that it is suspending its participation in meetings of a committee formed for coordination between the outside ally and the coalition government.

The divestment in Bhel ' described by Karat as the first “serious violation” of the common minimum programme, though the proposed 10 per cent share offloading will still leave the majority holding with the government ' was cited as the reason for the “suspension”.

However, keeping up the tempo in Lucknow, Karat said this afternoon he had not received any call from Sonia. “Sonia Gandhi is not in Delhi. Once she is back, we will talk,” he said, adding that the Congress-led government should not behave like the NDA. ( )

Brinda Karat, CPM politburo member Prakash Karat’s wife, said she was unaware of any call from Sonia. “If she spoke to him at the (Delhi) airport, I would not know. He (Karat) was leaving for Lucknow this morning,” Brinda said.

But Congress and CPM sources insisted that Karat received Sonia’s call at the airport.

That two opinions can prevail on something as routine as a phone call between allies of a coalition reflected the discomfiture of the CPM leadership with the standoff and a perception that it is holding the government to hostage.

Offering his services to resolve the differences with the government, veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu today sought to put the Left decision in perspective, pointing out that “the ongoing boycott is not a perpetual feature”. “Our doors are always open for discussion to resolve the impasse,” he said in Calcutta.

Asked if he would intervene in the matter, Basu said: “I have no problems if Congress leaders are willing. But leaders of Left parties in Delhi are always available for talks.”

The Left’s offensive has found few backers among the constituents of the coalition. Within hours of Sonia’s purported conversation with Karat, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party endorsed the divestment decision.

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