The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu powers Buddha’s nuclear energy

Calcutta, Sept. 21: CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu today supported chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on nuclear power as well as US investment in Bengal while echoing the party’s opposition to American “imperialism” in general and the nuclear deal in particular.

Basu was also hopeful that that “the Left-UPA joint mechanism may find some solution” to the standoff on the nuclear deal at its next meeting, indicating that he would like to give the Congress a longer rope to avoid early polls. The mechanism is scheduled to meet again on October 5.

“We need nuclear power and I have no doubt that we will need it more since the ongoing industrialisation would need more power. We have no problem in taking help from other countries for setting up nuclear power plants, provided it is in our interest,’’ the former chief minister said.

Basu added that “important issues” would be discussed at the party politburo and central committee meeting from September 28. But he denied any clash between the Bengal comrades and the Karat camp. “The media can’t set the agenda for our meeting. We are opposed to both imperialism and communalism,’’ he added.

Emerging from the weekly meeting of the CPM state secretariat this morning, Basu recalled that he had tried for a nuclear power plant in Bengal during his tenure. He said efforts for such a plant would continue irrespective of the acrimony over the nuke deal.

Basu’s statement followed the chief minister’s assertion earlier this week that “nuclear power cannot be avoided” as an alternative source for energy.

The party is not opposed to nuclear power as such, but the timing of the comments of Bhattacharjee and Basu — in the middle of the nuclear row in Delhi — has reinforced perceptions that the CPM high command and the Bengal unit are not entirely one on the issue.

The central CPM has been basing its opposition to nuclear power on high cost. However, despite the declared scepticism, CPM documents still describe it as “one of the many alternatives” and want an indigenous nuclear power programme, independent of the US and based on thorium available in India.

Bhattacharjee, too, referred to the cost of nuclear power generation but wanted to leave it to the “technical opinion of the scientists” — suggesting the issue should not be politicised — and ridiculed “green fundamentalists”.

While a section of the party felt that his stress on nuclear power helped “salvage” the party’s position and sent a “balanced message to industry”, others said the statement was deliberate to underscore his discomfort with the central leadership’s position.

Basu also put his seal of approval on Bhattacharjee’s decision to seek US investments and not to cancel industry minister Nirupam Sen’s visit. The former chief minister said neither was against the party line.

“We are opposed to US imperialism and would continue to protest its aggression in different parts of the world. But it will not mean shunning American capital and foreign direct investment. We know FDI would not come here for charity but for profit. Nevertheless, we welcomed it for industrialisation and job generation,’’ he said.

“We are following this policy since we had adopted our industrial policy in 1994, later adopted by the party congress,’’ Basu said.

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