RSP’s pique apart, Congress-Left unlikely to part ways (News Analysis)

June 2nd, 2008 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, June2 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a mild-mannered man. His way of showing his peevishness towards his Left allies, even on a corrosive issue like fuel price hike, is equally mild. But even by his tepid standards Singh quite outdid himself Monday morning when he obliquely reprimanded his Marxist friends supporting his government for stalling “rational economic policies.” The situation, Singh declared, “cannot go on.”

“This situation (of lack of prudent fiscal policies) cannot continue forever. We need therefore wider political consensus to adopt more rational economic policies,” said Singh in his inaugural address at the annual general meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

Within hours of the prime minister’s statement, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Abani Roy informed the media of his party’s decision to pull out of the UPA-Left coordination committee.

RSP is one of the smaller partners of the Left Front. Like other junior parties the RSP too has to walk in step with ‘big brother’ Communist Party of India (Marxist). Monday it struck out on its own.

All four Left parties had quit the co-ordination committee three years ago when the government was firmly set on the path to disinvest 10 per cent of shares from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), one of the 9 public sector ‘navaratna’ (nine jewels) companies.

The prime minister’s tempered but strong criticism at Assocham coupled with the RSP’s decision, analysts say, underline contradictions that will continue to trouble Congress-Left relations even after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has walked past its four-year goalpost.

The Left, despite its “Congressisation” at the centre, and the enthusiasm of its West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to push through Special Economic Zone (SEZ) projects, was going to keep rapping the government on economic policies.

Compulsions of politics in West Bengal, where the CPI-M has just fought bloody panchayat local polls against the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, would keep the exchanges going.

But as long as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stayed on course - ready to step in if there was a vacuum at the centre, the CPI-M would not be easy with snapping the neck of the UPA government. Not till the forces of a potential ‘third front’ scattered in different parts of the country could knock themselves into a credible shape.

But the going to the next general elections would get tougher with each passing day.

Economics and politics would collide every time the red light blinked on fuel prices. The impact of a potential hike in fuel prices,this time, was more because it came on the trail of rising food prices and inflation.

The Communists, now more fidgety than before, with the UPA government entering its fifth year in office, would keep its dogged holdout against any further hikes in fuel prices.

The CPI-M’s central committee members were restive at the meeting in Delhi last week. They wanted the leadership to stand apart from the UPA and the Congress, whose policies - led to price rise -inflation and a possible hike in fuel prices in future. People were becoming more and more resentful, warned the central committee leaders.

Ahead of 2009 general elections Singh’s irritable comments and the Left’s increasing restlessness - manifest in the RSP’s rebellious strike - point to further drifting apart of the two “anti-communal” forces that had come together to keep the BJP out of power.

But the reality of today’s coalition politics and a resurgent BJP could well keep them unlikely fellow travellers till the next election and even beyond.

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