The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Divided CPI in Cong dilemma
AB Bardhan and Chandrababu Naidu

New Delhi, Nov. 1: The CPI may be shaking its fist at the United Progressive Alliance government but a state unit from which the Left party draws strength wants to continue to sup with the Congress.

The Andhra Pradesh wing has told the party leadership not to snap electoral ties with the Congress in the state irrespective of differences over the nuclear deal and economic policies.

Citing the“unreliability” of N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, the state CPI has opposed the central leadership’s apparent eagerness to consider a Left-UNPA (third front) arrangement.

At the two-day meeting of the national council that ended yesterday, the stalemate over ties with the Congress in Andhra remained unresolved. “The final decision is unlikely before the next party congress in March,” a senior CPI leader said.

The 20th congress of the party, led by A.B. Bardhan, is scheduled to be held in March next year in Hyderabad.

The CPI central leadership wanted the unit in Andhra —where the party is more organised than in any other state — to follow the CPM and enter into an alliance with the Desam ahead of the Assembly polls, a source said. The elections are due in 2009.

But the Andhra unit refused to dump traditional ally Congress in favour of the Desam, the source said. “So, the national council has tentatively decided that irrespective of the party’s differences with the Congress, the latter will not be untouchable.”

Leaders from some other states, including Punjab and Rajasthan, also favoured continuation of the electoral arrangements with the Congress, whether for local polls or that to the Lok Sabha.

Sources said the Andhra leadership of the CPI was so vehemently opposed to switching over to the Desam that the issue was “allowed to remain unresolved”.

Both the CPI and the CPM had faced the Assembly and general elections in 2004 in Andhra as allies of the Congress. In the local body elections held over a year ago, the CPM switched over to the Desam but the CPI kept its alliance with the Congress alive.

Soon after, the two Left parties started a land struggle in the Telengana region and some of the coastal districts, widening the rift with the Congress-led government in the state.

Sources said the CPI leaders favouring pre-poll ties with the Desam argued at the national council that the party could gain from the anti-incumbency factor against the Congress. Such a shift would be in sync with efforts to form an anti- Congress, anti-BJP political platform.

But the CPI’s Andhra leaders said the Desam’s economic policies were as anti-poor as the Congress’s and that Naidu might again join hands with the BJP-led NDA.

The “Andhra line” might make it difficult for the CPI to follow the path being chalked out by the CPM, the sources said, adding that the state unit was too strong to be ignored.

The dominant view among Andhra leaders is that the party should not blindly follow the CPM and should “continue with its unity and struggle with the Congress”, a CPI leader said.

The stalemate, however, would not deter the CPI from sharing the dais with the Desam on issues involving farmers and labourers.

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