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Karat on anti-Cong course
Prakash Karat

Vijayawada, Aug. 7: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today appeared determined to drag his party on an “aggressive anti-Congress” course.

In his inaugural speech for the extended central committee meeting, Karat trained his guns almost entirely on the Centre’s “neo-liberal” and “US-subservient” policies, although he did not mention the Congress in the context of Bengal.

“What the chieftains of big business in the US and India propose, the Manmohan Singh government accepts and implements,” he said, and attacked the Centre on price rise, food security and the civil nuclear liability bill. “Instead of the poor, the government is ensuring food security for rats,” Karat said.

The six-page speech devoted just over a paragraph to the threat posed by the “communal BJP”, making it clear the Congress was the bigger enemy for the CPM at present. The draft political resolution endorsed this, saying: “The BJP is yet to recover ground and present itself as a coherent alternative.”

Nowhere in his speech did Karat touch on issues weighing on the minds of delegates attending the meeting primarily convened to discuss how to save the party’s sinking ship in Bengal and Kerala, where Assembly elections are due next year.

“Policies being pursued by the Manmohan Singh government are certainly very dangerous and the CPM has to oppose it. But the immediate task before us is to tide over the crisis the party faces and we have gathered here to discuss it and find ways,” a delegate from Bengal said.

Karat projected himself in full command of the party and displayed aggression, possibly to silence detractors before the political decisions taken under his leadership come under the scanner. The meeting will review the fallout of withdrawal of support to the previous UPA government and the failed experiment of pushing a third front ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

While some key delegates dozed off, Karat went full throttle against the Centre. The picture on the dais appeared in Karat’s favour — two known loyalists S. Ramchandran Pillai and Pinarayi Vijayan sat to his left and back; Bengal state secretary Biman Bose got a place in the first row but was tucked between Pillai and Brinda Karat; Sitaram Yechury, identified with the Bengal lobby, appeared “far removed” at the extreme right in the second row.

The chief ministers of Bengal and Kerala were absent. While V.S. Achutanandan has excused himself on health grounds, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could not make it to the inaugural session and is likely to leave before the public meeting at the end that will save him from sharing the dais with the party general secretary.

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