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Customary call to form government missing in CPM manifesto, gay rights make an entry

New Delhi, March 20: The CPM manifesto has skirted its ritual call for “government” formation — an omission that could be construed by rivals as a Freudian slip or an indirect admission that the party is not envisaging a role in power politics in the immediate aftermath of the general election.

The CPM manifestos in the previous general elections had sought support from the electorate for an “alternative government” but the word “government” was missing in the document released today by general secretary Prakash Karat and other politburo members.

“Vote for the CPI(M); Strengthen the Left for a secular and democratic alternative,” reads the slogan in the latest manifesto.

Asked why the word “government” was dropped, Karat was quick to dismiss it with a smile. “Government formation will take place after the elections,” he said.

The slogan stood in sharp contrast to the ones in the manifestos for the 2009, 2004, 1999 and 1998 elections.

“Vote for the CPI(M), Strengthen Left and Democratic forces for an alternative secular government,” read the slogan in the manifesto for the 2009 elections. This was the year when Karat went all out to project the third front as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP.

In 2004, the year the Left pulled off a spectacular performance and supported the Congress-led UPA I government to stop the “communal” BJP, the call for government formation was more direct. The slogan indicated that the CPM was open to the idea of supporting the Congress to stop the BJP.

“Vote: to defeat the BJP and its allies for the formation of a secular government at the Centre,” the 2004 manifesto exhorted cadres. In 1999 and 1998 too, the call for government formation was strongly put out as the Left was the architect of the United Front government.

This time, too, Karat had started the initiative for a third front with much gusto but it hit a wall after AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa refused to share seats with the Left.

The Left bloc looks scattered in Kerala, a state from where the comrades are seeking to pick the maximum number of seats to improve their nationally tally, given the bleak forecast from Bengal. The Forward Bloc and the RSP have rebelled against the “big-brotherly” attitude of the CPM in Kerala.

Karat, however, chose to dismiss both the bad signs and said the Left Front stood united. The non-Congress, non-BJP alternative will take shape after the polls and succeed in the endeavour to “reject the Congress” and “defeat the BJP”, he said.

The CPM leader said the Left would contest 100 Lok Sabha seats across the country, the maximum number in its history, which is being seen as an effort to improve upon the poorest Left tally in the 2009 elections.

Karat boldly rejected Mamata Banerjee’s idea of a federal front, pointing out that the Left cannot be ignored. “No front is possible without the Left,” he said.

In the manifesto, the CPM has taken bold positions on gay rights and capital punishment.

The party advocated amending Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code to decriminalise adult consensual relationships irrespective of sexual orientation. Indian Left parties are usually regarded as “conservative”.

The party also demanded the abolition of capital punishment. “Amend the Indian Penal Code and other statutes to remove the death penalty from the statutes,” said the manifesto.

Ukraine stand

The CPM today lashed out at “US imperialism” and backed Russia’s claim over Crimea, reacting for the first time since the Ukrainian crisis broke.

The editorial in the latest issue of the CPM mouthpiece, the People’s Democracy, castigated the US for displaying “supreme duplicity and double standard” by rejecting the referendum held in Crimea.

The party endorsed the referendum as “free and fair” and said the US should accept the “democratic decision of the Crimean people” to be part of Russia.

The CPM had chosen to be silent when Russia flexed its military muscles, finding it difficult to justify the threat to Ukraine because of the party’s stand against similar “imperialist” acts by the US in Iraq and Afghanisthan.

The result of the referendum in Crimea, however, has emboldened the CPM to take on the US and come out in full support of Russia.