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A red Rajasthan -- that is what CPM eyes now

November 14, 2008 19:59 IST

Its efforts to establish itself in politically important North India has not yielded much results till date. But now, in a calculated bid to expand beyond Kerala [Images], West Bengal and Tripura, the CPI(M) has picked up Rajasthan as its target area. The party will field as many as 34 candidates in the forthcoming Assembly elections there. The 200-seat strong state Assembly is currently ruled by the BJP.

The upcoming Assembly polls in the six states are considered as semi-finals for the next year's Lok Sabha elections. However, the CPI(M) has decided to concentrate mainly on the desert state where the party has conducted a few popular movements.

During the last elections in 2003, the CPI(M) had fielded 18 candidates and managed to win just one seat. Party sources say this will be the biggest leap in fielding candidates for Assembly elections outside the three red bastions.

The party has decided not to use much of its resources in the other important states going to polls along with Rajasthan  -- Delhi [Images], Madhya Pradesh [Images] and Chhattisgarh. Party general secretary Prakash Karat [Images] and Politburo leaders Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat might have spent many years working in Delhi, but the party is yet to get a grip on the larger arena outside students' politics in the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

So, out of the 70 Assembly seats in Delhi, the CPI(M) will field just four candidates in Delhi. Similarly, it has put up only 12 candidates in Madhya Pradesh and seven in Chhattisgarh.

Although the party got less than 1 per cent of total votes polled in Rajasthan, a confident CPI(M) is expecting to gain a much larger share, and even a few more seats, this time. "The Congress was totally defunct in its role as the main Opposition party during the last five years, while we spearheaded many movements. The two biggest movements were on the issue of water and power for farmers. We led both of them," said Hannan Mollah, the central committee member in charge of Rajasthan.

Prakash Karat's party is mainly eyeing two areas � the Ganganagar and the Shekhawati belts in the state's northern part � in this election. Out of the 34 seats, 25 candidates will contest in these two areas. During the past few years, the party had confined its agitation programmes mainly in these areas.

"In Ganganagar, we led the agitation for water. In three districts of the Shekhawati belt, everyone knows that water is available because of the CPI(M)," claims Mollah. On the issue of electricity, the CPI(M) agitators had gheraoed the Assembly house for seven days, forcing the Vasundhara Raje government to reduce the price of electricity for farmers.

Apart from Karat, Yechury and a host of central leaders, the CPI(M)'s chief minister of Tripura, Manik Sarkar [Images], will address rallies in the state. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may also come and woo the Rajasthan farmers to vote for the CPI(M), even as farmers stage protests against him in his own state.

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