The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Once bitten, Left twice cautious
- Plan panel boomerang splits stand on govt

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Learning a lesson from the Planning Commission row that boomeranged on them, the Left has decided to be more cautious in future on contentious issues.

The Left parties had not expected the decision that finally came their way when they escalated their confrontation with the government on the plan panel consulting 'foreign' experts.

After an angry campaign by the Left against the inclusion of 14 experts from global agencies, including the World Bank, the commission dissolved all its consultative groups. While this met the demand for removal of the 'foreign' experts, the purge also claimed economists ideologically aligned to the Left.

Forced to swallow the bitter pill, the Left leaders are now planning to adopt a more cautious strategy. A host of fractious issues are still on the agenda ' the FDI cap in telecom, the provident fund interest rate and the exim policy. The government is preparing a note in response to the Left's queries on FDI in telecom and is considering a higher provident fund interest rate.

The next meeting of the UPA-Left coordination committee on Monday is likely to discuss these issues. The question before Left leaders is whether to adopt a belligerent stand if the government goes ahead with policies they are opposed to.

The bottomline, however, is that they will not destabilise the government. Left leaders say they will work out their strategies within this overall framework where they want the United Progressive Alliance government to continue for five years, if only to keep the BJP out.

While a section of the Left leadership is against going into an aggressive mode, others advocate a confrontationist posture. For instance, CPM politburo member and Citu leader M.K. Pandhe does not want his party to pull its punches when it comes to economic reforms.

Senior CPI leader D. Raja lashed out at plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia today. After a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday, the CPM had described the Planning Commission's decision as 'satisfactory'. But Raja termed it 'unilateral and autocratic' and also blamed the government for not taking into confidence the Left parties whose support is crucial to its survival.

A section within the Left Front believes the government should not take its support for granted, especially on policies it is opposed to. But others argue that the Left should also tactically retreat after voicing its objections on issues it cannot win.

Top CPM leaders said the Planning Commission row was blown out of proportion even before the decision to disband all consultative groups was taken and blamed Ahluwalia.

Finally, the Prime Minister resolved the issue with a formula that denied the Left academics as well as the foreign experts any say in policy matters. A section of the Left believes it should not in future pitch confrontations so high that they backfire in the end.

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