On the eve of the first phase of the 15th Lok Sabha elections that are certain to throw up yet another fractured verdict, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to patch up with the Left and reiterated his friendship with regional parties.
Support of the Left and regional parties will be crucial for the Congress to return to power.
<b1>The Congress and the Left partnered for four years but parted ways on a bitter note in July 2008 over the Indo-US nuclear deal. “They wanted me to behave as their bonded slave,” Singh had said then of the Left. But on Wednesday he had a different take. “I was quite happy when as a government we were dealing with the Left,” he said, and hinted at another alliance with them. “An alliance with Left parties is possible only after the elections. Circumstances will decide if we go with the Left,” he said at a meeting with the Editors Guild of India.
The PM hoped the turnaround in the economy would happen by September 2009. “Experts who know tell me that things will turn around by September this year,” he said. Singh said the various measures taken by the government would bear fruit by then and signs of recovery would be visible.
Singh viewed regionalism and regional parties as obstacles to economic growth. However, the Congress and regional allies would work together to form the next government, he said. “As of now I am confident that the Congress would be able to form the government (with allies). I have dealt with the Left parties, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sharad Pawar. I have dealt with Jayalalithaa, DMK and PMK. I have also negotiated with Mufti Saheb (PDP leader). I have enough experience in dealing with diverse forces,” he said.
Singh said regional parities stood in the way of a common market and that if the Congress regained its past glory, it would help economic growth. “We need a party with national perspective in power,” he said.
On April 11 in Kochi, however, Singh had said the Left had always been on the “wrong side of history,” as it had opposed the Quit India movement, the computer revolution and economic liberalisation. His sudden turnaround has not impressed the Left. “There is no question of our supporting a Congress-led government,” said CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. CPI’s D Raja said the PM’s remarks were an ‘admission of the Congress’s weakening position’.
“This is election time, so the prime minister is speaking differently at different places. Regardless of that, we will fight the Congress. We will fight for an alternate government with alternate policies,” Raja told HT.
The PM said his recent offensive against BJP leader LK Advani, who has been attacking him consistently for being a “weak prime minister”, was a conscious choice. “Any serious political observer knows my remarks on Advani are true. I owe it to myself and the people of India to show where the shoe pinches. Enough is enough.”