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Third Front is a must, says Karat

Krishnakumar P in Coimbatore | March 29, 2008

Communist Party of India - Marxist General Secretary Prakash Karat (3rd Right) and Communist Party of India General Secretary A B Bardhan (4th Left) with senior CPI-M leaders during the 19th party congress in Coimbatore on Saturday.The United Progressive Alliance government has failed to address the agrarian crisis and the price rise of essential commodities and there is a need for a third alternative, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat said on Saturday.

Speaking at the party's 19th Congress in Coimbatore, Karat said this third alternative cannot be merely an electoral alliance.

"We have learnt from the experience of earlier formations like the United Front of 1996-98. There are democratic and secular forces who can agree with the Left on pro-people economic policies, on social justice measures, and an independent foreign policy," he said.

Stressing that the main reason for supporting the Congress-led UPA government was to keep the communal forces at bay, Karat said the government believed in economic policies which benefit big businesses and the affluent.

"The overall thrust has been of liberalization and privatisation. Why do they need to hand over Indian private banks to foreign banks or why do they want to open up the insurance sector to foreign direct investment? How is FDI in retail trade beneficial to the country when it will lead to the loss of livelihood for millions of shopkeepers?" he asked.

On the agrarian crisis and the price rise, he said the nature and trajectory of growth in the country is wrong.

"We do not want the spectacle of the ranks of the dollar billionaires growing amid suicides by farmers, growing unemployment and reduced per capita consumption of food grains," he said.

"The recent loan-waiver scheme for farmers can provide limited relief if it is suitably modified," Karat said about the Rs 60,000-crore Budget proposal to waive farm loans.

The global economy is being shaken by the onset of a recession in the US and the financial crisis which is spreading around the world, he said.

"For our leaders in the government who spoke of releasing the "animal spirits" and argue now for full capital account convertibility, we hope the current crisis will provide some sobering lessons. It is a sad fact that many in the ruling establishment believe that the US will help us become a major world power," he said, adding that this flawed outlook has led to the hankering for a strategic alliance with the US.

"The UPA government has only pursued what was begun by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. The only difference is that the brash 'natural ally' has been converted into a demure 'strategic partner'" Karat said.

On the other hand, Karat said, the party was happy with the developing relations between India and China.

"We have close ties and cooperation with Vietnam also. Both these socialist countries are making remarkable economic progress and improving the well-being of their peoples," he said.

Dubbing the India-United States nuclear deal, which the Left has been opposing from the beginning, as a complete shift in foreign policy and strategic perspective, Karat said the defence cooperation agreement and the nuclear deal are merely parts of an overarching alliance.

"We have to undo the military collaboration agreement. We have to continue the struggle to disentangle India from the strategic embrace of the US. This is important not only for India but for the whole of South Asia," he said.

The BJP was also singled out for treatment. Though the BJP was ousted from the government, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its outfit continued their hate campaign against the minorities, Karat said.

"Every issue  -- be it terrorism, social problems, culture or politics -- is viewed from the communal sectarian viewpoint. Cultural nationalism is only code word for the Hindu Rashtra of the RSS," he said.

Image: Communist Party of India - Marxist General Secretary Prakash Karat (3rd Right) and Communist Party of India General Secretary A B Bardhan (4th Right) with senior CPI-M leaders during the 19th party Congress in Coimbatore on Saturday.

Photograph: PTI

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