The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chandrababu warms up to Left

New Delhi, May 7: Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu has told the Left that he wants nothing to do with a party which is 'going back to Hindutva.'

The Desam chief had a long conversation on telephone with CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan a couple of days ago. According to sources, when Naidu told Bardhan that he wanted to quit the NDA, the Left leader advised the Desam chief to break away immediately. The timing was perfect, said the CPI leader.

Naidu has also spoken to Prakash Karat, the new CPM general secretary.

The CPI leader also told the Desam chief that he must change his economic policies and not behave like a 'CEO'.

There have been serious differences between the Desam and the Left over economic reforms. The Left has bitterly attacked Naiduís liberalisation policies and said the Desamís rout in the last Assembly polls was mainly because of its 'anti-poor' policies.

Naidu, for his part, told Bardhan that the Left Front government in Bengal was also following World Bank policies and, therefore, the Left should not complain about the Desamís economic policies. Bardhan said Bengal was only taking the help of the World Bank for projects.

The Desam chief, according to the Left, seems 'fed up' with the NDA but his main dilemma is about the Congress, which is his principal adversary in Andhra Pradesh.

Bardhan told Naidu he can continue to fight the Congress in his state ' the way the Left is doing in Bengal and Kerala ' but that should not be reason for him to continue with the NDA.

Desam sources said by distancing his party from the BJP, Naiduís immediate goal is to win the municipal elections coming up in July-August.

At a Desam meeting last week, a vocal section said the party won the 1999 polls as a good chunk of Muslims had voted for it though it was with the BJP, but after the Gujarat riots and five-yearsí of NDA rule, the community en bloc shifted to the Congress.

It said if the party severed ties with the BJP, at least a chunk of the 17 per cent Muslims could return to its fold.

Even before it decided to lift the boycott of Parliament, the party had in its meeting in the first week of April decided to junk the BJP at the state level while continuing outside support to the NDA at the Centre.

The idea was if a third front does not emerge, Naidu has the option of sticking with the NDA at the Centre and enjoy some leverage at national level.

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