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|January 2, 1998||
Should CPI-M 'lend' Jyoti Basu as the next PM?
The Kerala state conference of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which began on Friday in Palakkad, is expected to discuss several crucial issues that will have bearing on national politics.
The suggestion about the party sharing power at the Centre in the event of a United Front government, lending the service of senior leader Jyoti Basu as prime minister, and post-poll adjustments with the Congress will be the focus of the deliberations.
The conference, which is being held after a gap of three years, is also expected to probe the mind of the delegates on expanding the Left Democratic Front coalition in the state.
Although CPI-M patriarch E M S Namboodiripad has ruled out the possibility of the party joining any government at the Centre, his colleagues are not prepared to close the chapter. A considerable section of the state committee members feel the party should reconsider this stand. Some of the members even say it should make its stand known before the election in view of the Bharatiya Janata Party's propaganda. This section also holds that the CPI-M should not have any reservation about drafting Basu as the prime minister in case it joins the government.
Namboodiripad, despite his strong objections to these, is no more in a position to influence the deliberations (ill-health has restricted the veteran's movements and he has skipped most of the district conferences), while his rival V S Achutanandan has consolidated his position in the state unit.
Another noteworthy change is the CPI-M's softened stand towards the Congress -- obviously, it has percolated down from the Centre. Observers hold the BJP to a large extent responsible for this. Senior leaders like E K Nayanar, who had treated the Congress as the number one enemy, is now ready to climb down. Although Achutanandan has been conspicuous by his silence on the issue, his supporters are not averse to the idea. However, they are totally against any truck with communal parties.
Achutanandan's main rival, the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, too, appears to find Congress a proposition worth considering. (Now, they are "ready to consider the matter afresh in the light of BJP's attempts to find allies"). Senior leaders of the group fear that if the LDF continued to adopt an untouchable attitude to political parties representing the minorities, they (the minorities) would join either the United Democratic Front or the BJP camp.
While the BJP has already started negotiations with parties like the Kerala Congress-Mani and Indian Union Muslim League, the Indian National League (an IUML breakaway faction) is keen to enter the LDF fold. Though Namboodiripad wants the IUML and INL with the LDF, Achutanandan is against deviating from the political line the party had adopted in 1987. His recent utterances have indicated that he will oppose any proposal for electoral or other understanding with the Muslim League and the INL at the state conference.
The INL, which had supported the LDF at the last election, has already declared it will not continue its support without a reciprocal response. The CITU is of the opinion that the party should reconsider its position in the light of the CPI-M's failure to make headway among the minorities. However, considering the equations in the party, the proposal is not likely to get through.
Achutanandan has made it clear that he would insist on an election to the state committee if all his nominees are not accommodated. (Earlier, local level discussions held for a consensus panel had failed.) The last conference held at Kollam had witnessed parallel panels being set up by the Achutanandan faction, forcing an election.
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