The communists have turned down the handshake offer from Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh for the 2017 state elections.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) have clarified that they are rather planning “a strong Left combine” to take on the Akali-BJP alliance, the Congress and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the polls. In a meeting in Chandigarh on January 23 and 24, the CPI’s state executive is likely to adopt a resolution to this effect. In Delhi recently, Amarinder had stated that after getting former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal into its ranks, the Congress was in talks for an alliance with the Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The CPI and the CPM central leaderships have both ruled out any such talks.
“Punjab is not even on our radar, as we have elections in five other states at hand,” CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury told HT over telephone. “Amarinder Singh last met me long ago, when I was not even party general secretary. He had introduced me to some of his guests from Pakistan,” Yechury added.
The Left’s no truck with the Congress at the national level, particularly in the five states going to the polls this April, has cast its shadow over its strategy for Punjab, where its leadership is also opposed to it. CPI national council member from Punjab, Bhupinder Sambhar, said: “We are working in tandem with the CPM, CPM-ML and Pasla group (CPM-Punjab of Mangat Ram Pasla) to plan public meetings in rural Punjab. We don’t have to listen to Amarinder, who continues with his autocratic attitude, and especially when the Congress is no different from the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in its policies favouring neo-liberalism.”
The CPI’s senior national council member and Punjab affairs in-charge Shamim Faizi, who will attend the meeting starting on January 23, confirmed that the party had already resolved for a stronger Left combine in the five poll-bound states, Kerala and West Bengal especially. “In Punjab, we are not for any alliance or adjustment with either the Congress or the AAP, as the Congress supports the neo-liberal policies of the BJP, while the AAP has already announced during the last parliamentary elections that they are no socialists,” said Faizi.
The CPM’s 9-member Punjab secretariat will also meet on January 20 to “build up a Left democratic alternative in the state”. Punjab CPM secretary Charan Singh Virdi, who stated it, even dubbed Amarinder’s handshake offer “totally wrong”.
The CPI last had an alliance with the Congress in Punjab in the 2002 assembly elections, when it got two seats. However, the Congress won over both its legislators — Nathu Ram from Malout and Gurjant Singh from Kuttiwal.
The erstwhile People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) of Manpreet Singh Badal, who has moved to the Congress, had an alliance with the CPI and seat-adjustment deal with the CPM in the 2012 state elections, and it drew a blank.