Manmohan reaches out but communists continue to sulk (Roundup)

May 3rd, 2009 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday held out an olive branch to the Left parties and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi drew up the broad contours for an alliance with them, but the communists spurned the overtures, reiterating that they would not work with the Congress again.
In an interview to the Kolkata newspaper Ananda Bazar Patrika, the prime minister said West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was a “personal friend”.

He added: “There can be an understanding with the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for installing a government. There are no permanent friends or foes in politics.”

Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary and son of party president Sonia Gandhi, indicated in a television interview that there could not be a post-poll alliance minus the nuclear deal with the US.

He added in the same breath that there could not be a compromise either with Manmohan Singh as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

A day after the prime minister said he was ready to hand over the party’s reins to young leaders, the 38-year-old Congress general secretary told CNN-IBN: “From my side, I know - and I do know my mother’s views on this - that he is the best prime ministerial candidate.”

He added: “He (Manmohan Singh) is our candidate and we are going to stick by him. Like we did in the case of the nuclear deal.”

He also said the poll results were important but there could not be a “compromise on certain issues”.

Simultaneously, trying to warm up to the Left, Rahul Gandhi said: “I don’t think the Left feels a sense of betrayal (over the nuclear agreement). They have their point of view and we have ours.”

But, the communists were not convinced.

“We do feel betrayed,” said S. Sudhakar Reddy of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

“They have betrayed the people of the country, they have betrayed the Nehruvian foreign policy, they have betrayed the common minimum programme by signing this nuclear deal.”

“There is no question of supporting a Congress-led government,” he added.

He was reiterating what the chief Left outfit, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), and its leader Prakash Karat have stated several times before.

In his interview with Ananda Bazar Patrika, the prime minister lamented that Karat would have this opinion while he (Singh) shared good rapport with CPI-M leaders.

“I don’t know why he is saying all this. These are completely unnecessary and meaningless,” said Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, referring to Karat’s remarks earlier in the week that he would not support an upper house member for the prime minister’s post.

Manmohan Singh said he enjoys good rapport with veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu and also had a good relationship with late CPI-M leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet. “But I don’t know why Karat is behaving this way,” he wondered.

But the prime minister also said: “See what happens after the polls,” adding that such things are normal during the elections.

On West Bengal Chief Minister Bhattacharjee, Singh said: “Buddhababu is a personal friend. My opinion of him has not changed. The friendship will remain. But at the same time, I have to criticise his government for the way it has ignored the interests of the peasants.”

Rahul Gandhi said his party’s performance in the elections will improve.

“We will improve our tally. We will win and form the government,” Gandhi said confidently.

“The 2004 elections hinged on two or three factors. This election is more complicated. I know where we are gaining: Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh.”

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