It’s official now. The CPM’s highest body — the Party Congress — began on Saturday with General Secretary Prakash Karat spelling out the need for a third alternative to the Congress and the BJP.
“The need for a third alternative is being felt all the more. This, as our party has explained, should be based on an alternative platform of policies,” Karat said in his opening address at the 19th party Congress that began with hoisting of the Red flag at the Comrade Anil Biswas Nagar venue. “It cannot be a mere electoral alliance. We have learnt from our experience of the earlier formations such as the United Front of 1996-98,” Karat added. The CPM was part of the UF government.
He said: “There are democratic and secular parties who can agree with the Left on pro-people economic policies, on social justice measures and an independent foreign policy.” He made it clear the alliance would be “anti-communal” and the party congress would deliberate on how to go about forging a third front.
Karat said the Left has already declared the Indo-US nuclear deal cannot go forward. But now, he said it would also have to “undo the military collaboration agreement” between India and the US.
Distancing itself further from the ruling UPA alliance, the CPM criticised the government for “neo-liberal policies”, which it said are leading to greater disparity among the haves and the have-nots.
Karat said the UPA has failed to address two major problems — the agrarian crisis and the rise in prices of essential commodities. The CPM claimed credit for forcing the government to take pro-people measures. CPI General Secretary, AB Bardhan, who also spoke at the opening ceremony, went further to claim credit for the UPA’s showpiece programmes, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act.
The six-day congress saw party stalwarts Harkishen Singh Surjeet and Jyoti Basu missing the Party Congress for the first time due to failing health.