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Red agenda may just shake, not stir Cong

Bhaskar ROY

Sunday 20 June 2004, by ROY*Bhaskar

NEW DELHI: Indira Gandhi’s minority government survived on Left support after the Congress split in 1969. CPI stood by her during the Emergency and was her ally in the 1977 general election when her own party colleagues like Jagjivan Ram, Chandra Shekhar and H N Bahuguna broke away to make common cause with the opposition in the struggle for democracy.

As a price for that crucial support, the Left ensured a distinct socialist tilt in the government’s economic policy, influenced the foreign policy direction towards Moscow and managed to grab key positions in academic institutions for its sympathisers in the intelligentsia.

There has been an air of deja vu with a strong Left crucial for the survival of the Manmohan Singh government. However, despite being a critical element, the Left has failed to influence the general direction of the government’s economic and foreign policies, important decisions and key appointments.

For Congress, the Left support has come cheap. Compared to a massive step like bank nationalisation by Indira Gandhi, all that the Left can hope to get this time round is its rehabilitation in the academia and some of its trade unions who were facing dwindling returns.

Despite considerable Left pressure, the Manmohan Singh government has refused to take any anti-US position and made it clear that cooperation with Israel in defence and other areas will continue. Clearly, wanting to be seen as a responsible mainstream party, Congress could not approve of any policy shift that would lead the country into a phase of alienation.

The objective behind external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s recent visit to Washington was to reassure the Bush administration of India’s desire to continue its close relatio nship with the US. Again, the PM has begun to put in place his team ignoring the Left’s reservations about some of the men he has brought in. Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is one example.

P.S.

in The Times of India, Sunday, June 20, 2004.

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