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CPM on Ratna radar

Calcutta, Jan. 11: The CPM may not have allowed him to be a Prime Minister, but they should not play the spoilsport if the Centre decides to confer the Bharat Ratna on Jyoti Basu.

Although the party is opposed to its leaders accepting awards in principle, a proposal for Basu’s name could force the party to revisit 1996 in a different context. In 1996, the party rejected a proposal by the United Front to make Basu the Prime Minister — when Basu and the then CPM general-secretary, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, were in favour.

That the party could face a dilemma over the present proposition was evident from party state secretary Biman Bose’s response to a query this afternoon at Alimuddin Street headquarters. Asked about reports , Bose said: “I don’t know about the parameters on the basis of which Bharat Ratna is conferred on an individual. If Basu fulfils the parameters, they (the Centre) can think it over.” He was talking to newspersons at the party office after a news conference on the resolutions to be discussed at the four-day state conference beginning January 14, preceded by a public rally at Brigade Parade Ground on January 13.

The CPM chief also reacted to L.K. Advani’s appeal to the Centre to confer the Bharat Ratna on former Prime Minister Vajpayee. “BJP is playing politics by making his request,” he added. CPM central committee member Benoy Konar, however, said the party would not object “in principle” if the award is conferred on Basu.

“We shall not object in principle if the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest award, is conferred on Jyoti Basu. But the party will not recommend his name, as the BJP is doing shamelessly for Vajpayee. It’s in bad taste,” Konar said tonight. Taking a dig at BJP, the CPM leader pointed out that Vajpayee would “lose much of his prestige as a man of integrity” if BJP insisted on conferring the award on him.

There will be no question of a change in CPM’s known position in regard to such awards if Basu’s name does not figure at all. The problem for the party will come if Basu decides to accept the honour if it is proposed to him.

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