Left may support BJP if it sheds religion from politics: Biman Bose (Exclusive)

July 11th, 2008 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, July 11 (IANS) Biman Bose, one of India’s most influential Marxist leaders, has said that the Left can consider supporting a BJP-led coalition if that party sheds what he called its “communal agenda”. In surprising remarks made in London Thursday, he also said the Left may have made “a mistake” by not withdrawing its support from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government earlier and accused the Congress of trying to “bail out” the Republican Party through the nuclear deal ahead of US elections.

Bose, one of the most senior leaders in West Bengal and a member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s (CPI-M) politburo, made his startling remarks while briefing a select group of British diplomats, bankers, and government and Commonwealth officials over dinner in London Thursday night. IANS was the only Indian media group invited to this meeting.

The dinner was hosted by industrialist Shishir Bajoria of the Kolkata-based multinational, Bajoria Group.

Bose, who is general secretary of the West Bengal CPI-M, was asked pointedly if there were any circumstances under which the Left would support a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition in New Delhi.

“The Left never subscribed to the communal politics of the BJP. That does not mean the BJP all the time did only mischief. It does not mean that. But the BJP could not leave its communal agenda,” Bose said.

“If it happens that the BJP is opposing communal politics, then the real stand will be clarified. Whether the BJP is more dangerous than the Congress or the other way round depends on some distinct political twists and turns, and parties’ principles can be judged only in those twists and turns, not in normal conditions.

“So wait for some days - or some years - to see those twists and turns.

“If the BJP moves with the same politics with which they are moving today, the question (of supporting the BJP) doesn’t arise at all,” he added.

Asked if the CPI-M wanted the BJP to support a common minimum programme, Bose stressed the importance of secularism.

“They are to cut religion and politics. They mix up religion and politics. Religion should remain in temples, churches and mosques or in gurdwaras. That should be the private belief of the person concerned. Religion should not be mixed up with politics,” he replied.

Earlier, speaking exclusively to IANS, Bose said that when it came to the post-election scenario, the Left would support a Congress-led coalition “if the Congress has learnt their lesson”.

“They have to bring down inflation, and introduce a universal public distribution system, and universal and free health and education.”

Bose said real inflation in India was over 12 percent and could “touch 13 or 14 percent this year”.

Bose, wearing a formal Bengali dhoti in a roomful of men and women in dark business suits, hinted at a larger, global reason behind the Left’s withdrawal of support to the government over the India-US nuclear deal.

“The (popularity) rating of George W. Bush in the US has gone down to 28 percent. This has never happened before in history. The lowest used to be 38 percent - now it is 28 percent,” he told his audience.

“In that political scenario, the government of India is going to bail out George W. Bush by signing the nuclear agreement,” he said, adding that nuclear energy would account for only eight percent of India’s energy needs.

Asked why the Left had not withdrawn support earlier, Bose replied: “There you might blame the Left parties.”

He said the Left held back because the UPA government did implement some parts of the Common Minimum Programme, such as the non-privatisation of public sector units known as the Navaratna that he said had laid the foundation for independent India.

Meanwhile, Bose’s CPI-M politburo colleague Sitaram Yechury left London Thursday after a three-day visit at the invitation of the British foreign office.

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