CPM divided on joining with Cong for state polls

Leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are divided on whether the party should go for an electoral understanding with the Congress before the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal and Kerala.

The differences within the party came out in the open for the first time at a mammoth rally in Kolkata on Sunday, when many leaders from Bengal either kept silent or offered tacit support to such an alliance. However, leaders from Kerala and Tripura were bitterly opposed to the idea.

''Those who are not with us but fighting the Trinamool and BJP on their own should unite into a single force,'' Bengal state secretary and Politburo member Surya Kanta Mishra told a huge crowd at the Brigade Parade Grounds in the party's last rally before the assembly polls. In Bengal politics, a slogan or message aired from the Brigade ground is considered as a strong message by the party to its voters.

''There are people in all political parties who are disgruntled, and have become bitter critics of the ruling Trinamool Congress. We have to reach out to them. At this hour, Marxists have to play a historic role,'' said Mishra. It was a clear indication that he was talking in favour of an alliance with parties opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the ruling Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.

Throwing light on the division of opinion within the CPI(M), a central committee member told the Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the meeting, ''This is not the forum for addressing this issue. However, the speakers have to say something because the people expect them to do so… general secretary Sitaram Yechury is open to the idea of an alliance with like-minded parties, but his predecessor Prakash Karat has his reservations.''

While senior West Bengal leaders - including former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Left Front chairman Biman Bose - avoided mentioning the Congress, Kerala state secretary K Balakrishnan lambasted the UDF government in Kerala. ''The (Congress-led UDF) government in Kerala is one of the most corrupt in the country. Even the chief minister has come under the scanner,'' he said.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, on the other hand, referred to the Emergency to allege that there was no difference between the Congress and the BJP.

''A sizeable section of leaders, including Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, are sceptical about forming an alliance with the Congress. Most of them feel that it won't bring in any extra votes. They think it may even prove to be a political blunder, given the experience we had with the UPA-I government,'' the central committee member said.