The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia comes between Basu & Biswas

Calcutta, Aug. 18: CPM leader Jyoti Basu today said the politburo did discuss the party’s support to Congress president Sonia Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate, apparently contesting state secretary Anil Biswas’ denial of any such discussion in the apex body’s meeting.

“We did discuss the party’s support to Sonia in the politburo meeting and a further discussion will take place on this score next month. We consider Sonia an Indian citizen and there should not be any controversy if the party backs her after she is chosen as a prime ministerial candidate by the Congress,” Basu told The Telegraph this afternoon.

Biswas had yesterday denied reports about such a discussion at the politburo meeting. “We have not yet discussed anything about extending support to Sonia Gandhi.” Basu might have spoken about the party’s support to the Congress in line with the discussion that took place at the CPM’s Hyderabad congress last year, Biswas said of the former chief minister’s comments about supporting Sonia.

Basu iterated that the party’s support to the Congress was a “political necessity” to ensure the defeat of communal forces in the forthcoming elections across the country. “I don’t understand why there is a controversy about the party’s clear-cut stand vis-à-vis the Congress. I am emphasising the party’s line and nothing else,” he observed.

Basu also resented the manner in which some Left Front constituents are crying themselves hoarse against providing support to the Congress president.

“We do differentiate between the communal BJP and the secular Congress party. Tell me, what will the Left do in the states where we are not formidable enough to counter the BJP'” he asked. “Do you allow a division in the secular votes to pave the way for the saffron party’s electoral victory or work out a tactical arrangement to strengthen the anti-BJP forces'”

When told about the Forward Bloc’s decision to maintain equidistance from the Congress and the BJP as “both are the parties of the bourgeois landlords”, the veteran Marxist leader said he did not subscribe to the view.

“I am not bothered about what the Forward Bloc and RSP are saying about the Congress. We should not forget the political exigencies. We are committed to defeating the BJP at the national level,” he said.

That Basu’s observation about the Congress, particularly Sonia, has come as a major embarrassment for Left parties was evident from the manner in which Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas criticised Basu for his “overtures to Sonia Gandhi” during the day.

“The Left Front does not exist at the national level. We are not ready to toe Basu’s line in extending support to the Congress president,” the Bloc leader told a news conference.

Senior RSP leader Sunil Sengupta also felt that Basu’s observation about Sonia would tarnish the Left’s image at the national level. “Why should we extend support to the Congress whose credentials are also questionable'” he asked. He maintained that the Left should maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP.

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