Sunday, March 29, 2009

Left will not support Congress-led alliance

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which propped up the Congress-led coalition before the two groups parted ways last year, will not support it again after coming elections, party chief Prakash Karat said on Saturday.
The communists supported the Congress party government for four years after the last 2004 election, giving it a majority in parliament. A refusal to do so again could lessen the chances of Congress forming a government again.
The communists are spearheading a loose grouping of smaller regional parties popularly known as the "Third Front", which pitches itself as an alternative to Congress and an opposition Hindu nationalist-led alliance.
Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M), said he will not back a Congress-led coalition even if it emerges as the single largest grouping.
"In that situation we will sit in the opposition. We will not support them," Karat, sitting at a spartan desk in his party headquarters, told Reuters.
"In case there is no clear result -- which is also possible, it is a very complicated election -- the post-poll situation will show which combination has the capacity or the credibility to muster the larger number. Let the Congress try. We will try.
While the Congress-led alliance is still the frontrunner, polls say, the Third Front could hold the balance of power or even emerge as the single largest grouping in parliament.
Karat said the party was open to talking to the Congress about the formation of a government provided it was led by the Third Front.
No party or combination of parties has been ever been able to form a government without the support of either Congress or the opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But the communists are hoping several fence-sitting parties, who in the past have allied themselves either with the Congress or the BJP, will this time join the Third Front.
A strong showing by the Third Front would mean the communists would be able to negotiate with the Congress from a position of strength.
"I do foresee a realignment after the elections of the parties. Most of these parties have decided to fight the elections on their own and then say after the elections we will see what is to be done."
The CPI(M) and smaller left parties blocked many economic reforms such as privatisation after the 2004 election.
Their pact collapsed after the communists walked out angrily last year over a civilian nuclear deal with the United States.
Karat said the Third Front would push to "rework" the nuclear deal and abrogate defence agreements with Washington like one which allows U.S. ships and aircraft pitstops in India for refuelling and maintenance.
"Our platform would be we would like to rework the 123 agreement," Karat said, referring to the nuclear deal.
"We would be more stronger on the defence framework agreement which was signed with the United States in June, 2005. We would definitely like to rescind that agreement."
New Delhi negotiated the defence framework pact but has not signed it yet, primarily because of domestic opposition.
Karat said pacts like the logistics support agreement (LSA) would only further Washington's military campaign in Afghanistan and the Third Front would not allow it, potentially undermining President Barack Obama's new war strategy against al Qaeda.
"Take a situation where the Obama administration's increased military involvement, sending in 17,000 troops," Karat said.
"So under the LSA it would have meant probably U.S. naval ships coming to ports on the west coast of India for refuelling, maintenance, getting supplies and then going back for operations off the Pakistan coast from which they launch their cruise missiles or things like that."
India holds a general election from April 16 to May 13. Votes will be counted on May 16.

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