The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu’s concession card
- Differences out in open, Bengal leaders echo veteran

Calcutta, Sept. 30: Jyoti Basu said today the CPM would wait for “concessions” from the UPA on the nuclear deal before taking the final decision on withdrawing support, drawing rare public expression of solidarity from his Bengal colleagues.

The senior-most politburo member’s comments are being seen as a reflection of the reluctance within the Bengal unit on forcing early polls.

“There will be two meetings (of the Left-UPA joint mechanism) on October 5 and 14. Let us see what concessions they will offer us. We will decide after that,’’ Basu said this morning in reply to a question on the party’s likely response if the Congress-led government defies the Left and goes ahead with the next steps on the deal.

Basu’s comments came a few hours before the politburo met again to sum up the central committee discussion that has been going on over the past two days. The summation will be presented before the central committee tomorrow, the concluding day of the session.

Basu did not reveal the nature of “concessions” he is looking for but his public pronouncement is a clear signal to the party hardliners to hold their fire till the mechanism wraps up the next two rounds.

By speaking of “concessions” on the nuclear deal, Basu has brought into focus the anxiety in the CPM to get a face-saver. Second, he has given voice to the feeling among Bengal leaders that the party should try everything to avoid a showdown. This is the larger message from Bengal to Prakash Karat — he may keep the ideological pitch high, but the party should explore all ways to avoid mid-term polls.

Basu’s talk of “concessions” need not necessarily be a contradiction of what he had said yesterday on the party brooking “no compromise” on the deal. The no-compromise line is the theoretical or public face, while the reference to “concessions” betrays the tactical line.

No matter what Karat and his supporters may publicly say, the CPM knows that it would not be easy for the government to get out of the deal or have it altered significantly. So, the CPM is keen to have some concessions that will enable them to beat a tactical retreat.

That Basu and the Bengal leaders have put Karat under pressure is borne out by the remarks of other leaders today. Veteran leader Samar Mukherjee and Bengal industries minister Nirupam Sen echoed Basu’s sentiments. “What Jyotibabu said is our opinion also. He spoke on our behalf,’’ Mukherjee said.

Sen, one of the Bengal leaders who is believed to have cautioned against hasty steps, said: “Let them come out with concessions first, then we will think.’’

Bengal’s difference with Karat’s line is reflected also in the way M.K. Pandhe, Citu leader and one of the hardliners, reacted to Basu’s statement. “What concessions'” Pandhe snapped. “The only concession we are asking for is to stop the deal. We are still firm that we won’t allow the government to operationalise the deal.’’

Others known to be close to Karat echoed Pandhe. But the Karat camp is only speaking in strategic language without actually contesting Basu’s approach for a practical solution.

“We are still looking for the next rounds of negotiations at the joint committee and will stick to it to the end. But the Congress must understand that the desperation is theirs if they want to save the government,’’ Nilotpal Basu said.

Whether the Congress will offer any concessions is another matter. According to party sources, the Left would send another missive to the UPA before the meeting on October 5.

If the push eventually comes to shove and the Left has no alternative but to withdraw support, it would not let the government continue as a minority set-up, a party leader said.

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