The nature of relationship between the Congress-led UPA and their crucial outside allies, the Left, seem to be gradually changing. While the political alignment between the two groups is apparently sound, the importance of the mechanism set up to act as a platform for the two groups to discuss policies has declined.
That platform in the form of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee has not met since November 2006. It was formed soon after UPA came to power in May 2004 for the Left and the UPA to debate political and economic issues.
For the Left parties, the mechanism was important, as it was where they could point out to the government that it was deviating from the promises made in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).
But at the same time, the coordination between the UPA and the Left seem to be on strong political grounds. First, for the presidential election, both decided to support Pratibha Patil. The Left also signed Patil’s nomination papers while they had not agreed to sign the NCMP when it was proposed by the UPA in 2004.
Secondly, in the recently held meeting of the CPI (M)’s Central Committee, the Party mentioned that there was no question of withdrawing support from the government, as communal parties would readily take advantage of it.
But it was the same Left parties, which had boycotted Coordination Committee meetings for about four months in 2005. The cause: Left’s opposition to disinvesting the Navratna PSU, Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited.
After re-joining the Committee in October 2005, the Left met the UPA for at least half-dozen times till November 2006. Most of these meetings ended in deadlock as the Left raised objections to a number of government policies including the insurance bill, the SEZ Act and Rules and prices of petro-products.
Why have the meetings stopped? The two groups have met in Parliament on several occasions to discuss important bills, but the Committee meetings have not been convened for several months now.
The CPI (M) is reluctant to comment on why a meeting of the Committee has not been convened. Prakash Karat, CPI (M) general secretary, said it was factually correct that the Committee had not met for seven months. "It is true. Both sides have not met. That’s all. It could be that neither side felt the need to meet," Karat told the Hindustan Times.