The current strain in ties between the Congress and its Communist allies is showing. The Left has rejected the ruling party's plea to defer a proposed national strike on a day that coincides with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's birth anniversary.
According to Left sources, the Congress leadership had requested the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders to consider rescheduling a strike on Aug 20, called by the Left trade unions against the government's policies, as the ruling party celebrates the 64th birth anniversary of their late leader.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee requested CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury whether the Left could reschedule the one-day general strike called to protest the "anti-worker policies" of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Although Yechury conveyed the message to the leaders of the party-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), its leadership rejected the plea, said the sources.
However, CITU national president Tapan Sen said there was no such formal request. "We have not received any formal request from any body. We are hearing it from other sources."
Sen told IANS: "Anyway, we do not think that holding a strike on somebody's birthday is a dishonour to that person." According to him, the strike date had been fixed in May.
Seven trade unions have announced the strike in a bid to force the government to agree to their various demands, including strict implementation of all labour laws particularly in respect of minimum wages, working hours, social security and stringent action against all violations.
Congress workers across the country observe August 20 as 'Sadbhavana Divas' when party activists do charity work and the party-led state governments launch new welfare schemes.