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Commentary/Mani Shankar Aiyar

Is Jyoti Basu capable of Bengali perestroika?

Jyoti Basu The refusal of the CPI-M to countenance a realistic appreciation of the ineluctable role of the Congress in national politics is the strongest suit the BJP has in its pack of cards. So long as the far Left insists on building a Berlin Wall between itself and the Congress, the BJP will have the advantage of acing a divided secular vote.

If, indeed, the era of coalitions has dawned -- and I am not sure it really has -- the refusal of the far Left to accept political reality constitutes an invitation to the communal Right to project itself as a credible national alternative. It has taken but six months for public opinion to conclude that a khichri sarkar is not an enduring solution.

The next general election will probably see a backlash away from a fractured verdict. That can only benefit the BJP. Of course, it will be more likely to benefit the Congress if, by that election, my party is able to get its act together. But whether the Congress is able to effect a nation-wide rejuvenation or not, the far Left seriously needs to rethink its position.

Twenty years in power is a long time -- and the latest state election in West Bengal have signalled what can only be an inevitable long-term trend: the erosion of the CPI-M vote-bank. One man's personality has staved off reverses for over a decade. But even that charisma is a declining asset. before Nripen Chakraborty's fate overtakes the present CPI-M leadership, they need to recognise that the next election will not only see a diminution in the regional vote but also a decline in the far Left vote,.

The Congress will, I hope, have by then strengthened itself to be the recipient of the support that drifts away from the regional and the Left; but even then it is going to be difficult to return to the halycon days of indubitable single-party majorities. Therefore, the consensus on the nature of our nationhood will have to be maintained by the secular parties all together against the continued onslaught from the behemoth of Hindutva.

The far Left needs, therefore, to decide whether, in these circumstances, its touch-me-notism must continue to extend to the Congress.

BJP Leadership A more reasonable CPI-M approach to the Congress at the national level does not mean, of course, that the Congress will call off its Mamta Banerjees and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshis. Not at all. One the contrary, it is the Mamtas and Priyas that the Congress will be projecting as its alternative state-level leadership. But that is the pattern in every state; West Bengal will merely fall into the same pattern.

Indeed, all constituent members of the United Front, and the Congress itself, will have to learn to reconcile internecine disputes in the states with a measure of cohabitation at the Centre. This, I hope, will make it easier rather than more difficult for the CPI-M to recognise that its national duty lies beyond West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala.

Is Jyoti Basu capable of Bengali perestroika?

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