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Left win will tighten grip on UPA Govt

Victory in W Bengal and Kerala will increase its influence, say analysts.

india Updated: May 09, 2006 11:46 IST

A likely victory of the Left in West Bengal and Kerala will tighten its grip over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but the communists are unlikely to withdraw support to his coalition government.

The Left, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in particular, is supremely confident of returning to power in Kerala after a five-year gap and of retaining the reins of office in West Bengal.

A win in West Bengal would be a record of sorts. A nine-party Left Front led by the CPI-M has ruled the state since 1977, winning election after election.

"We will win in West Bengal for a record seventh time and we also expect a big victory for the LDF (Left Democratic Front) in Kerala," CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said as staggered assembly elections in five states ended. "Both these states will have Left-led governments.

"And we are confident these results will strengthen the Left at the national level."

Karat's colleague Nilotpal Basu added: "The victory in both the states will definitely strengthen the Left parties and will force the Congress to take us more seriously."

Left leaders have been blowing hot and cold over the economic and foreign policies of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. They feel the election outcome would reinforce their importance in New Delhi.

The leaders hope that a stronger Left block would be in a better position to bargain and pursue their views on economic and other issues.

"We will be in a better position to pursue the common minimum programme (CMP)," the agenda of governance for the ruling coalition, Basu said.

The Left was in direct fight with the Congress-led alliance in Kerala. In West Bengal, it was locked in a triangular fight involving the Congress and the regional Trinamool Congress.

Karat, who is widely seen as a hardliner, has already warned that the Left would get "aggressive" after the assembly elections and that the "longevity" of the Manmohan Singh Government would depend on how well it implemented the common minimum programme (CMP).

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja echoed Karat's views: "The Congress cannot take our support for granted. They will have to listen to us."

But although the communists have stated that there would be a "review" of their alliance with the Congress post-poll, they were clear that it would not pull the rug from under the UPA government.

"We will review the alliance but not in the sense of withdrawing support," Basu clarified.

Political analysts also feel the Left was not ready to pull down the Manmohan Singh Government.

"Although there is strong resentment against the neo-liberal policies in the statements of Left leaders, I do not see any possibility of their pulling down the government," CP Bhambri, a politics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University said.

Bhambri said the Left parties would not create a "breaking point" at a time when "so-called socialist parties" were pitted against one another in Uttar Pradesh, politically the most crucial state.

The Left's main concern is that a fall of the Congress-led government in New Delhi could result in the return of its greater foe, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which it calls a communal party.

In Uttar Pradesh, which elects 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the Left is weaker than even the Congress, which is struggling to keep itself alive.

Karat has also said that the CPI-M was no more interested in forming a so-called Third Front just to fight elections because it feels such a grouping often cracks up at the slightest push.

According to Bhambri, the growing proximity of the DMK, now the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, with the Congress also would make the CPI-M "think twice" before deciding to part ways with the UPA.