Nandigram: Second rung Congress leaders cannot hide their glee. For a change they are getting to hit out at the CPM that tended to take a holier-than-thou approach on peoples’ issue while waving the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme as a reminder to their allies. With the police firing killing several people in Nandigram, Congressmen maintain that the CPM has lost its high moral ground with its pro-poor and pro-farmer agenda. The upshot: the Congress too has to now tread with caution when it comes to the SEZ issue.
Economic policies: The Left parties have criticised Chidambaram’s budget for not addressing inflation and unemployment and its low allocation to health and education. The CPM has never tired of pushing the Congress on the backfoot on economic issues. In 2005, it had opted out of the UPA-Left coordination panel to force the Manmohan Singh government not to disinvest PSUs like BHEL. It rejoined the panel only after Sonia Gandhi intervened and got the UPA to keep such disinvestments in abeyance.
Third Front: The CPM and other Left parties have never hidden their desire to set up a non-Congress, non-BJP third front that would pursue alternative policies. Besides its principled opposition to the dismissal of state governments, this was among the reasons why the CPM scuttled the Congress’ move to remove the Mulayam government in UP before the polls. It also remains in touch with potential third front partners like the DMK, though the two clashed over the Maritime bill.
Foreign policy: The Iran vote and the Indo-US nuclear deal were the highpoints in the UPA’s foreign policy when the Congress successfully withstood Left pressure. The end result: The two parties agreed to disagree. The Left parties continue to raise a furore and the Congress-led UPA has gone ahead with the nuclear deal and with its decision to vote against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in February 2006 to refer the Iran nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.