The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress rout rocks CPM

Calcutta, Dec. 5: The CPM is shaken by its prospective general-elections ally’s dismal performance in the Assembly polls, especially because a sizeable section of the party had been advocating a pro-Congress line.

Veteran leader Jyoti Basu said today the party politburo would meet on December 15 to discuss the emerging political situation that he perceived as a “setback for Left and democratic forces”. Basu will leave for Delhi on December 14.

The CPM is worried about the “serious situation” after the Congress’ drubbing in the polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgrah. “We cannot form the third front and we find the BJP gaining. We never realised that the Congress will come up with such a dismal performance. We were hoping that they would do well and help take on the BJP in next year’s general polls,” Basu said.

At least 25 CPM candidates were in the poll fray and all of them lost.

Basu believes the BJP’s “Hindutva slogan” has served as a substantial political plank in the three states and paid rich dividends for the party. “We feel another aspect that helped the BJP gain was ideology. In these states, the Hindutva slogan appears to have worked. I used to know the chief minister of MP (Madhya Pradesh. I am surprised at the results there.”

CPM sources said pro-Congress leaders like Basu and general-secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet are more upset as they had been advocating the support-Congress line in the face of opposition from hardliners like Prakash Karat.

The veteran leaders favour supporting Sonia Gandhi’s party in areas where the communists are weak. “They (both parties) were to have a common programme to oust the BJP from power at the Centre,” a source said.

But another section of the party, which includes state secretary Anil Biswas and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, is opposed to the Congress.

Though such leaders believe the BJP’s electoral gains would not affect the 2004 general elections, a pro-Congress CPM leader said: “We think that a joint election strategy with the Congress is the only alternative left to us to throw the BJP out of power.”

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