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February 6, 1998


T V R Shenoy

You really can't blame the CPI and the prime minister for refusing to go along with the bunch of losers masquerading as a United Front

"You have blood on your hands!" Indrajit Gupta thundered at the Congress benches after Sitaram Kesri withdrew support from Deve Gowda, "You must now reply to the people."

A mere 10 days later the bellowing Bolshevik was cooing sweet nothings at Kesri's boys and girls. And 10 months later Indrajit Gupta's party is helping the Congress draft that reply to the people -- the CPI and the Congress are in alliance in Punjab!

I also remember what the veteran Communist said in Madras: "There is no alternative but to support us." Well, comrade, who is supporting whom in Bhatinda and the other 12 seats in Punjab?

So now it is official -- the United Front is well and truly disunited. If the CPI has left its allies to fend for themselves, well, it was only following in the prime minister's footsteps. When Inder Kumar Gujral went to file his nomination papers for Jalandhar, there was nobody from the Janata Dal in his entourage. But there were plenty of people from the Akali Dal and, for good measure, the BJP mayor of the city!

If you ask me, both Gujral and the CPI are acting very sensibly. You really can't blame the CPI and the prime minister for refusing to go along with the bunch of losers masquerading as a United Front. One year ago the BJP-Akali Dal alliance swept the polls to the Punjab Assembly. The 'Grand Alliance' organised by Harkishen Singh Surjeet -- the CPI-M, Janata Dal, and Samajwadi Party -- lost every single seat.

Come to think of it, the spectacle of the CPI and the Congress sleeping together is not really new. It has happened before, in the the dark days of the Indira Gandhi regime. (This coalition had one benefit -- under the CPI's Achuthananda Menon it gave Kerala the best government the state has ever had.) But the CPI was forced to reconsider after the Congress debacle of 1977.

The CPI-M, however, wasn't quite ready to kiss and make up. Before re-admitting the CPI to the Left Front, the Marxists insisted on a formal apology. This was duly given at a conclave held in, of all places, Bhatinda, the same city where the CPI has now formally restored its old link to the Nehru-Gandhi clan!

All this, of course, explains why Indrajit Gupta is taking such pains to explain his party's position on 'sensitive' issues. "We never said Rajiv Gandhi took the money from Bofors!" he says. Actually, Comrade, the evidence points to Bofors paying off Ottavio Quattrocchi. What we want, and deserve, to know is who took the loot from Quattrocchi's account thereafter.

But the same CPI which is so accommodating towards the Congress is utterly inhospitable when it comes to the CPI-M. I have already referred to Punjab. But how about Tamil Nadu, where the CPI refused to surrender one of its seats to the CPI-M?

Jokes apart, what is the CPI playing at? Why is it in such a tearing hurry to strike up alliances at any cost, even if it means strained relations with the rest of the Left Front?

Simple, the CPI is losing votes everywhere and it needs new backers. In 1996, it garnered so few votes that it should have been immediately deprived of its recognition as a 'national' party according to the rules. Only the generosity of the Election Commission saved it from this humiliation. Perish the thought, but were the Three Wise Men influenced by the fact that the Union home minister is a CPI man?

I sympathise with the CPI's efforts to retain the 13 MPs it had in the 11th Lok Sabha. But the party shouldn't be allowed to get away with a fraud. If they genuinely see an incarnation of Indira Gandhi in her Italian daughter-in-law, the veteran Communists should openly declare that they want a national alliance to keep the "communalists" at bay.

To keep the record straight, the CPI isn't alone in cosying up to the Congress. Mulayam Singh Yadav is openly allied with that party in Maharashtra, and informally so in parts of Uttar Pradesh. Why can't these end the farce of a United Front once and for all?

Dange organised a tie-up with the Congress. Mohit Sen still advocates it. To coin a phrase, comrades, to keep your seats you have no alternative but to support the Congress!

T V R Shenoy

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