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Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM tests strength in north

New Delhi, Nov. 18: The CPM is bracing for the first poll verdict on its new non-BJP, non-Congress plank and has fielded a record 66 candidates in the five election-bound north Indian states.

The party is contesting 34 seats in Rajasthan, 12 in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Jammu and Kashmir, six in Chhattisgarh and four in Delhi.

The CPM had only three MLAs in the five dissolved Assemblies — two in Jammu and Kashmir and one in Rajasthan — and has never before considered any north Indian election as a test of its strength.

However, the party claims it has made progress in some of these states over the past few years, and that this could be reflected in the poll results, helping it expand its influence in northern India.

“In states like Rajasthan, we had intervened on many pressing issues of the people. We hope this will help us fare better this time,” politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai said.

Finding partners for the non-BJP, non-Congress coalition, too, has been difficult for the CPM in these elections, since all the major regional parties in the fray are firmly in the Congress or BJP camp.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the most significant ally in the Left’s planned third alternative, is a minor player in the poll-bound states. In Madhya Pradesh, where it has some support, the BSP’s main contribution may be a boost for the BJP by cutting into Congress votes.

Probable third front allies Janata Dal (Secular) and Telugu Desam Party are virtually non-existent in the five states.

Nor has the CPM officially tied up with any non-Left party, except for asking voters to back the BSP at seats the Marxists are not contesting.

Still, these elections are important to the CPM’s hopes of continuing to play a significant role in national politics after it snapped ties with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

The 34 candidates the party has nominated across 15 Rajasthan districts are almost double the number it fielded the last time, and the largest ever in the history of the CPM in the state.

Among the candidates is the party’s lone sitting MLA, Amra Ram, who is contesting from Data Ramgarh in Sikar district after his previous constituency of Dhod turned a reserved seat after delimitation.

“We are contesting six seats in Sikar district, where we believe we wield some influence,” a CPM leader said.

A niggle for the party is that in some seats, such as Okhla in Delhi, it is taking on communist ally CPI in a “friendly fight”.

Politburo member Pillai, however, claimed: “We hope to sort out all the differences between us.”

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