Basu at home on Tuesday. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
Calcutta, March 17: Jyoti Basu was today more forthcoming about the CPM joining a non-Congress, non-BJP government than party chief Prakash Karat was yesterday.
“We may join if the third front is able to form the government. Last time, we could not do it. Now, it seems we will be able to do it,’’ the patriarch said, indicating his hope that the party would not repeat the “historic blunder” of 1996.
Basu, who would have led the alternative formation as Prime Minister then, added that shaping the front would be “difficult” this time. He had been sceptical about the front earlier, preferring the Congress, a “lesser evil” compared to the BJP, as an ally instead.
Launching a website for the CPM candidate from Jadavpur, he said today: “The third front now has become an imperative. But things will depend on the polls. I hope we win.’’
Karat had said: “Hopefully, if a situation develops, our central committee will meet. We will see the situation, take stock of it and decide.”
Karat’s remarks and the renewal of Basu’s hope of undoing the “blunder” are not coincidental, some Bengal CPM leaders revealed.
Those like Benoy Konar, who had opposed Basu and Karat’s predecessor Harkishen Singh Surjeet on the question of joining the Congress-supported United Front government in 1996, sounded enthusiastic today. “There is a difference between 1996 and 2009. What could not be done earlier may be possible now. People’s expectations from us have increased,’’ Konar said.
Mohammad Salim, one of the few CPM central committee leaders from Bengal who had argued in favour of Basu’s prime ministership, also stressed the difference in the scenarios. “We didn’t join the government in 1996 because it was a post-poll platform and the party felt we wouldn’t be able to dominate its policies. Now, we are trying to forge an alternative on the basis of a pre-poll formulation.’’
“The communist party always learns from experience,’’ he added.
CPM leaders pointed out that the party had upgraded its programme in 2000 following debates within on the pros and cons of joining a central government. The 1964 party programme had made room for the formation of state governments to “give immediate relief to the people’’. But the party admitted that the “situation was changed” after several terms in office in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The era of coalition politics, too, offered the Left opportunities to emerge as a power bloc that could make or break governments.
The 2000 programme called for “utilising opportunities for forming such governments in the states or the Centre, depending on the concrete situation’’.
Sources in the party said the debate was still on but many state leaders welcomed Basu’s statement as a boost. “The possibility of joining a central government will lift the spirits of our rank and file ahead of a tough election and prod voters to give us a chance at the Centre,” a leader said.