| Atal Bihari Vajpayee chats with Manmohan Singh who called at his 7 Race Course residence in New Delhi on Monday. The Prime Minister paid a customary visit for 20 minutes. Vajpayee will move to 8 Krishna Menon Marg soon. (AFP)
New Delhi, May 24: Harkishen Singh Surjeet told Sonia Gandhi — at a dinner hosted by the Congress president last night — that the CPM does not have any basic objection to the draft common minimum programme, but not all sections within his party agree.
The CPM general secretary’s comrades in the Centre of Indian Trade Unions do not have a single positive word to say about the draft. The labour leaders today rejected the common minimum programme as “inadequate and unacceptable” at a convention organised by the Left trade unions to celebrate the National Democratic Alliance’s defeat and attended by the Citu, the CPI-backed All India Trade Union Congress and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
The central leadership of both the CPM and the CPI, however, believe the draft is in tune with the Left’s economic and social-sector policies.
“We are suggesting changes. But there is nothing in the draft that we are fundamentally opposed to. The CMP’s thrust is in line with our basic perspective,” said CPI leader D. Raja — one of the four who had drawn up the common minimum programme during the 1996 United Front government.
The CPM and the CPI are sending their suggestions to the Congress before the common minimum programme is finalised.
However, Aituc general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha this time, is against the draft. “The CMP is inadequate and not acceptable to us,” he said.
The trade unions will work out their own charter of demands and place it before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Some of the main demands of the unions include constituting the Sixth Pay Commission, increasing the interest rate of the Employees Provident Fund, abolishing contract labour for perennial jobs, removing the ceiling on bonus and scrapping the voluntary retirement scheme.
The trade unions also want the government to undo the Supreme Court ban on strikes by introducing a legislation in Parliament.
The pro-changers in the CPM have always found it difficult to convince the Citu to soften its position. In Bengal, the Citu opposed the new industrial policy announced by former chief minister Jyoti Basu, though its general secretary M.K. Pandhe, also a member of the party politburo, conceded that the compulsions of governance required a different strategy.
The functioning of the government will depend to a large extent on the Left accepting the common minimum programme. The CPM has said it will sign the draft only if the party agreed with it. The party has also made its joining a co-ordination committee conditional on the draft.