Derailed by n-deal, Marxists look for new friends

July 14th, 2008 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat’s sudden embrace of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is the first significant fallout of the Left’s failure to put up a broader front against the India-US nuclear deal after its major long-standing allies refused to sail with it. “Over my dead body!” was Karat’s frequent refrain to his colleagues in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) whenever he was asked if the contentious nuclear deal could become a reality.

Party sources told IANS that Karat was firm, right from the time the row over the deal broke out some months ago, that he would not allow India’s strategic partnership with the US as long as he headed the CPI-M, the nation’s dominant Communist party.

In making this assertion, he was fairly sure that he would be able to convince friendly parties to oppose the nuclear deal — on the strength of his arguments.

At the same time, Karat insisted that he was not interested in toppling the Congress-led government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

All that, party sources say, changed after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government went to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the India-specific safeguards agreement.

For months, the CPI-M - and Karat in particular - had been interacting with a variety of players including nuclear scientists and legal and foreign policy experts as he led a shrill campaign against the nuclear deal.

Everything these experts - who were critical of the nuclear deal - said was vetted and crosschecked before Karat made them a part of the anti-nuclear blitz.

But when it came to the crunch, the CPI-M failed to win over parties with which it has had close ties for years, at times despite reservation from the Communist Party of India (CPI). They included the DMK, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Samajwadi Party in particular.

In the process, the CPI-M’s dreams of forging a national “left and democratic” alliance have been shattered. In contrast, both the Congress and BJP have lined up a large number of parties behind them.

“If we are not able to gather allies on our side on an issue we feel is so important, what is the worth of any left-democratic alliance?” a senior CPI-M leader asked.

“What is the point of having a front that can’t agree on the dangers of a strategic relationship with the US? It is a larger question we need to answer.”

Karat’s decision to make a dramatic U-turn and shake hands with BSP chief Mayawati - knowing well he would burn his bridges with the Samajwadi Party - has to be seen in this background, the party sources said.

According to the sources, Karat was more upset with Congress president Sonia Gandhi than the prime minister over the government’s move vis-a-vis the IAEA to make the nuclear deal operational.

And this sense of hurt, the sources said, was bound to strengthen the hands of those in the CPI-M who have never been comfortable with the Congress. Karat, who became the general secretary in 2005, is said to be one of them.

CPI-M sources say that if he has his way, Karat would never let the party bail out the Congress in the event of another hung parliament — as long as he is the party boss.

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