Is a third alternative in the offing?

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New Delhi, Apr 19: The United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and the Left parties today came closer on the pressing issue of price rise and inflation and vowed to work together, indicating that a third alternative may take a concrete shape well before the next Lok Sabha elections.

Leaders of the UNPA and the Left parties jointly addressed a seminar on inflation organised by the UNPA here. Later, they led hundreds of their activists in courting arrest against the government's 'failure' to check the rising prices. Though the Left leaders confined themselves to raising the issue of price rise and inflation, the UNPA leaders called upon the Left parties to accept the challenge of evolving a broad national alternative to replace the regime at the Centre.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said the UNPA and the Left parties had made a ''very good beginning'' today.

''We have come together for a greater common cause. This enthusiasm should extend to our cadres at the state and the district level,'' he said.

In his 20-minute address, Mr Karat emphasised that from the very beginning the Left parties had been asking the Manmohan Singh Government to contain price rise but it has chosen to ignore the warning.

''It is unfortunate that the Government had not responded to our demands and suggestions for controlling price rise, ban on futures trading, universalising the Public Distribution System, roll back in oil prices and restoring the original essence of the Essential Commodities Act which was diluted by the previous NDA Government and perpetuated by the UPA.

Speaking at the Seminar, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan emphasised that a people's movement needed to be launched to make the Government understand the gravity of the situation and come out with required response.

Mr Bardhan, who co-chaired the seminar, lashed out at the government, saying it had destroyed the PDS system, leaving the poor totally at the mercy of black marketeers and hoarders.

''The Government is so insensitive and indifferent that it paid no heed to the Left demand for futures trading,'' he said, adding the people of the country would not accept this callousness on the part of the government.

Rejecting the government's contention that the rise in prices was the fallout of global situation, the CPI leader said, '' This is the Government-created inflation, its economic policies have led to the present situation when farmers are committing suicide and millions of people are starving.'' UNPA Chairperson and Samajawadi party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in his presidential address said that after the Prime Minister ''displayed his helplessness in checking prices'', there was no course left except to take to the streets.

''If we don't work together in future, today's whole exercise will go waste,'' he said.

The Samajwadi Party chief, however, asked the Left leaders to prevail upon the Government to mend its ways and not destroy agriculture which was the mainstay of the country's economy. Forward Bloc National Secretary G Devrajan said it was unfortunate that while the government spent only Rs 30,000 crore on food subsidy, it gave tax concessions to the corporate houses to the tune of Rs 1,77000 crore.

''The government'economic policies should not leave anyone in doubt that they are not for the 'Aam Aadmi'(common man),'' he said.

INLD leader Om Praksah Chautala and National Conference leader Farooque Abdullah suggested that the coordination between the UNPA and the Left should be further expanded and that greater mobilistation of the people was required to change the regime at the Centre.

Taking a dig at the government's policies, UNPA convenor Chandrababu Naidu said they were leading to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. He targetted the SEZ describing it as ''a haven for real estate developers''.

Almost all the speakers were of the view that today's exercise was a ''good beginning'' for launching mass action on burning national issues which could lead to the emergence of a third platform as an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP.

The issues included price rise, anti-US imperialism, the Indo-US nuclear deal and independent foreign policy. The leaders said they were in regular contact with each other on the matters.


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