The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rise of Buddha sun in Delhi

New Delhi, May 11: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is virtually going to take over the party headquarters in Delhi.

“We have problems with the UPA government over economic reforms. Buddhadeb will play a greater role at the Centre,” Jyoti Basu said today.

The politburo will meet in the capital on Saturday to take stock of the election results. But if one thing is evident already, it is that the chief minister’s clout in the party has gone up several notches, which will make him an effective mediator with the Manmohan Singh government.

The Prime Minister has excellent relations with Bhattacharjee, who has often backed him on reforms. For instance, the Bengal chief minister supports the pension bill and was not against private participation in modernisation of airports till the CPM pulled him back.

More than once, finance minister P. Chidambaram ' possibly the man the CPM sees as its enemy number one in Delhi ' has praised Bhattacharjee as a model chief minister.

“The Left has made significant contributions to the formation of the UPA government. We look forward to making increased interventions in its policies,” CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, a hardliner often at loggerheads with the Centre on economic issues, told the media amid victory celebrations at the party headquarters AK Gopalan Bhavan.

Over time, the CPM in Delhi has jettisoned much of its inflexibility on reforms, particularly after Bhattacharjee became chief minister. But there are still crucial areas where it does not agree with the government, airport privatisation being just one.

The support of the Left’s 62 MPs is crucial to keeping the Manmohan Singh government in power.

Bhattacharjee’s sweep of Bengal ' with 235 seats, this is the CPM’s second biggest victory in its 29 years in power ' has planted him firmly in the role of an interface between the Centre and his party. While he will have to work within the CPM’s publicly stated positions on reforms, the chief minister is likely to try and push the frontiers of these policies. The Prime Minister and the pro-reforms lobby in his cabinet will also use Bhattacharjee as a shield against opposition from the CPM politburo.

Publicly, the CPM denies any difference in the party’s stand on economic reforms in Delhi and Bengal. But it is well-known that Bhattacharjee’s vision of reforms does not match the leadership’s.

“I do not understand what you mean by reforms of the West Bengal government,” Karat said today. “West Bengal and Kerala do not determine our national policies.”

The landslide win in Bengal would have come as bad news for Bhattacharjee’s critics, particularly the hardliners in the party’s trade union wing Citu as well the central committee and the politburo because it gives him more bargaining power for his reforms.

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