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Clap! Comrade Karat on stage

New Delhi, Jan. 10: When Prakash Karat takes the stage, clap — this was what the CPM told its cadre in Kochi.

With election prospects not too good in Kerala and Bengal, the party clearly didn’t want to take a chance at the rally that the party general secretary and chief ministers of both states addressed yesterday.

The instruction to applaud Karat wasn’t the only one handed to CPM workers by the state party unit. There was another — don’t drink.

“Every party wants its cadre to be disciplined. There is no need to read anything into it,” snapped a senior leader from the state.

Disciplined is what party workers weren’t in Kottayam last year, when drunken scenes marked the state conference. At the end of that meet, as Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan took the stage, the cadre went berserk with applause. Some of the exuberance came out of the bottle.

State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who does not get along with Achuthanandan, later compared the meet to an “Usha Uthup musical”.

The party wouldn’t have wanted any one leader to walk away with the applause in Kochi, leaving its general secretary high and dry.

So this time, the CPM’s state unit decided to play safe with the two commandments — do clap for Karat and don’t drink. It seemed to have worked, because the public rally passed without a hitch.

The three-day central committee meeting, which had taken Karat and other CPM leaders to Kochi, ended today.

At the meeting, the leaders discussed the bleak election prospects — as compared to the last time, when it swept both Bengal and Kerala.

Reports from both state units said the situation that helped the CPM score big victories in the 2004 general election does not exist any more. Then, the CPM-led Left Front had won 35 of Bengal’s 42 seats and 18 of Kerala’s 20 seats.

The defeat in two byelections has worried the party in Bengal, where it is also concerned about a possible electoral alliance between the Trinamul Congress and the Congress. The central committee has directed the state units to declare candidates early.

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