The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left jitters for Delhi before Bush visit

New Delhi, Jan. 11: The Prime Minister is hoping the Left wouldn’t embarrass him by boycotting Parliament if President George W. Bush addresses a joint session during his upcoming visit.

The US President may have to be offered the honour as a return gesture since Manmohan Singh had addressed the US Congress during his July 2005 trip. The Left was present at a similar sitting addressed by Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, on March 22, 2000.

Left sources said no decision had yet been taken, but whatever the stand on a Parliament boycott, there would be “no compromise” on opposing Bush on the streets. The cadre will be out in strength before and during the visit, because the US President represents the “worst face of western aggression”.

They warned that if the Prime Minister expected Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to come to his aid and rein in the cadre, he would be disappointed.

“The chief minister has said, loud and clear, that there will be no compromise on US imperialism,” a Left insider said.

The potentially controversial subject of a House boycott is not expected to come up at tomorrow’s meeting of the United Progressive Alliance-Left coordination committee.

But sources said the Prime Minister was hoping the Left would follow the lead of its veterans. E.M.S. Namboodiripad, B.T. Ranadive and Jyoti Basu had welcomed Jimmy Carter “respectfully, as a visiting dignitary” when he visited India as US President during Janata Party rule.

“These veterans had the same ideological problems with the US as the current leaders do, but they behaved in an exemplary way,” a source said. The Left was then supporting the Morarji Desai government from outside.

The government sources cited how geopolitical realities and imperatives force even Delhi to do business with all kinds of regimes. For instance, the king of Saudia Arabia, representing a theocratic country with a poor rights record, had been invited to the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest.

The Centre hopes Bush’s visit would get US business to invest more in India, which has gained a reputation as an “economic superpower” and must now show that it is one.

The Singh-Bush meeting on July 18 last year had, on paper, cemented a business partnership in the shape of a forum of CEOs. The Indian side is headed by Ratan Tata and counts Mukesh Ambani and Nandan Nilekani among its 10 members.

“The US is convinced that India holds the promise for the future, but we have to deliver so that the marriage on the trade front does not sour,” a government source said.

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