Left asks UPA to gear up and halt saffron march

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New Delhi, May 29: Concerned over the BJP's consistent electoral gains since 2004 and its maiden victory in south India, the CPI(M) today asked the UPA government to ''pull up its socks'' so that the saffron march was immediately halted.

''The Karnataka Assembly elections results make it paramount for the Congress-led coalition to ensure that the popular discontent against it on account of price rise and other issues do not give political advantage to the BJP,'' senior CPI(M) leader and politburo member Sitaram Yechury told newspersons. On the sidelines of the party's two-day central committee meeting, he said it was the basic responsibility of the UPA government to give relief to the people suffering from price rise.

''We want a secular government at the Centre. For that, the government should strictly adhere to the Common Minimum Programme and take measures to give immediate relief to the poor, large section of middle classes, farmers and the labour force.'' The first meeting of the 78-member central committee, held after the party congress at Coimbatore in March-April, began at the CPI(M) headquarters at A K Gopalan Bhavan here this morning, with intense discussions on the current political situation - the Karnataka Assembly and West Bengal Panchayat polls, price rise, Indo-US nuclear deal and the organisational matters.

In reply to a specific question on how the party proposed to deal with the UPA's declining popularity and the gains by the BJP, Mr Yechury said the most dominating factor in the Karnataka Assembly elections was the ''20-20 match'' played by the BJP and the JD(S) besides the saffron party's claim of betrayal.

He also said the issues of agrarian crisis, farmers' suicide and the rise of prices of essential commodities also contributed in the BJP's first win in south India.

On the impact of the West Bengal panchayat polls on the Left prospects in the next Lok Sabha elections, the Marxist leader quipped: ''We will do well in every Left-ruled state.'' ''Panchayat polls have their own characteristics. So the results will not impact our prospects in the next general elections. The absolute majority gained by the Left in these polls is unique by any standards,'' Mr Yechury added.

Elaborating, he said the panchayat results showed that even after 30-year-rule of the Left, it was able to retain 13 out of the total 17 zila parishads with a swing of 54 per cent votes in its favour.

Mr Yechury said the committee would discuss the report of the state unit to gauge the mood and the sentiments of the people.

Based on this the party would rejuvenate the organisational mechanism and find ways and means for course correction, he added.

Karnataka was the 13th electoral defeat for the Congress and its UPA allies since the 2004 general elections. Since 2004, the BJP has consistently improved its voting percentage from 28.33 per cent that year to nearly 34 per cent in 2008.

To another query on the government's indication to finalise the strategy on the Indo-US nuclear deal in coming few days, the CPI(M) leader ruled out any such possibility, saying the Centre had informed them just today the date of the next UPA-Left panel meeting, which had been fixed on June 18.

In reply to another pointed question regarding the formation of ''Third Alternative'' in the wake of SP leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh holding meetings with Left leaders Prakash Karat and A B Bardhan, Mr Yechury said the concept was not of a ''cut and paste'' job as it has to be evolved through mass base struggle.

He evaded a direct reply on the possibility of the formation of Left-Congress-SP troika for the parliamentary polls, saying the Left has friendly relations with the SP.

UNI

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