The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kashmir rekindles Cong-support debate

Calcutta, Oct. 10: Prompted by the outcome of the Jammu and Kashmir elections, the CPM politburo today began to explore the possibility of extending support to the Congress to form the government in the violence-scarred state.

The politburo, which went into session here, began to address the plausibility of structuring the Third Front as a durable counter to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance with the Congress — the unexpected success story in Jammu and Kashmir — as the cornerstone of the new front, top party officials indicated tonight.

It seems that the Kashmir election outcome has rekindled the familiar debate in the CPM over the advisability of collaborating with the Congress. The pro-Congress section of the leadership today advanced arguments to push for such a collaboration to firm up the now-on-now-off Third Front.

The CPM’s apex body was scheduled to discuss how best to structure the Third Front. But Jyoti Basu and party general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, both politburo veterans and known votaries of a collaboration with the Congress, added an edge to the agenda by forcing a resumption of the debate.

Basu and Surjeet based their arguments on three inter-locked features of the poll outcome: the rise of the Congress, the sinking of the BJP and the gains of the CPM — the party has won two seats and was placed second in another two. The features, they argued, required the leadership to tap into the dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir politics for giving shape to the Third Front.

“Without the Congress, the Third Front would not succeed,” officials quoted the duo as saying.

The Basu-Surjeet combine’s thrust on forging relations with the Congress met with a strong counter analysis of the ground realities in the state as well as at the national level from the section whose thinking is shaped by Prakash Karat, who is tipped to succeed Surjeet in future.

In a way, the resistance was in order as otherwise — from Karat and company’s standpoint — the push for collaboration meant revising the plans adopted at the Hyderabad party congress to build up the Third Front without the Congress, the officials indicated.

The two sessions of the politburo, spread over six hours with a lunch break, were devoted to assessing the Kashmir situation and its impact on national politics. It is expected to be addressed in a fuller manner tomorrow.

“They (National Conference) have paid the price for their opportunistic alliance with the BJP at the Centre. The voter cannot forgive the BJP for it wants to reject Article 370 and autonomy for the state”, politburo member Sitaram Yechury said today, indicating that the CPM would strive to stop the National Conference from staking a successful claim to office.

Illegal pandals

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee today declared two puja pandals in Calcutta illegal.

He said Natore Park Balak Sangha in Picnic Garden and Tribarna Sangha in Bosepukur had flouted the fire safety norms.

“While Balak Sangha has made their pandal with tyres and tubes, which are highly inflammable, Tribarna Sangha has made a boat-shaped pandal without a proper exit,” said Chatterjee.

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