M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee, Advani backed anti-Sonia move: CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 18
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) today charged the caretaker Prime Minister and senior BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee of supporting his party’s ‘sinister campaign’ by his “silence,” to stall the appointment of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi as the country’s next Prime Minister.

“There is a campaign of villification” and “despicable” attempts were being made to “overrule the verdict of the people and Mr Vajpayee and the BJP leader L K Advani are keeping silent,” veteran CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee told reporters here.

“Where are the norms of behaviour and etiquette portrayed by Mr Vajpayee?... Where is Mr Advani? Why are they maintaining silence as threats are being issued by so-called religious and cultural protectors of the country? Have they gone into hibernation?”, he said.

On reports of Ms Gandhi’s reluctance to take over the reins, Mr Chatterjee said apparently Sonia Gandhi’s children Rahul and Priyanka were against their mother taking up Prime Ministership as they feared about her safety.

He said it was an internal matter of the Congress to decide who should be the prime ministerial candidate.

Asked about the proposal of a former Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, being considered for the post, he said the CPM had no problems in accepting his candidature.

“We have no problem with Manmohan Singh. He is one of the most decent persons, a knowledgeable economist and I will opt for him any time over any person in the BJP,” he said

Earlier in the day, the veteran Marxist leader was unanimously re-elected the Leader of the CPM Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha, which has 43 members in the new House.

Asked whether he would stand for the post of Speaker, he said, “The party will have to take a final decision”.

On reports that he would be the Pro-Tem Speaker to deliver the oath of affirmation to the newly-elected members, Mr Chatterjee quipped “That may be because of my old age”.

Mr Chatterjee, who has spent over 30 years in Parliament, had been the Pro-Tem Speaker in the 13th Lok Sabha as he was the senior-most member of the House. This time round, he was elected the tenth time.

Meanwhile, the CPM said it would play an “independent role” in protecting the interests of the working class under a Congress-led government.

It would extend outside support to Congress-led coalition government to “weed out communal penetration” from institutions of state and other fields.

“The verdict of the people is against the communal platform assiduously propagated by the RSS-BJP combine, its brazen pursuit of pro-rich, pro-big business economic policies and its abject capitulation to the US hegemonistic designs,” the statement issued by the party said after its two-day Central Committee meeting here, which decided against joining a Congress-led government.

The CPM said its Polit Bureau would consider the draft proposals for a common minimum programme and “take whatever necessary steps thereafter”.

On the disinvestment front for which the party faced flak for statements that reportedly caused a stock market crash yesterday, it just said that while the public sector required to be “streamlined, there could be no privatisation of profitable public sector units”.

The CPM demanded a comprehensive inquiry into the crash to identify those responsible for it saying the markets soared as soon as rumours about Sonia Gandhi being “reluctant” to take up the Prime Minister’s post spread.

“We also demand that Arun Shuorie make public the names of those who, he had stated, were manipulating the market,” Mr Chatterjee said. 


Political drama on Sonia issue avoidable: CPI
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 18
Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to lead the country has evoked a mixed response from the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Ms Gandhi’s “irreversible decision” was conveyed formally to the CPI leadership by senior Congress leaders, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Arjun Singh and Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad at Mr Singh’s Safdarjang Lane house here on Tuesday afternoon.

Dr Manmohan Singh, architect of the economic reforms process in India and former Finance Minister, has been named as Ms Gandhi’s choice for the Prime Minister’s post.

CPI National Secretary D. Raja who accompanied the party General Secreatry to Dr Manmohan Singh’s house told TNS here on Tuesday evening that Dr Manmohan Singh told them that “Madam has refused to become Prime Minister and she cannot be dissuaded any further.”

The Common Minimum Programme for governance, a condition placed by the CPI before the Congress for extension of support, took a back seat. Most CPI leaders spent the afternoon receiving anxious calls from supporters and surfed news channels to keep themselves posted of minute-by-minute developments.

CPI General Secretary, A.B. Bardhan told TNS that he agreed that the unusual situation arising out of the political drama was avoidable. Asked if he would persuade Ms Gandhi to review her decision, Mr Bardhan asked, “How many times do we persuade her?”

The CPI General Secreatary told TNS that Ms Gandhi told the allies yesterday that she did not wish to be Prime Minister and had agreed to head the government under pressure from a galaxy of top leaders. Mr Bardhan said the Congress President said it was difficult to resist the pressure.

Ms Gandhi’s decision led to diverse interpretations from CPI leaders. Some in the party said that Ms Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to hold the challenging and responsible office of the Prime Minister was an attempt to create public demand favouring her candidature for the country’s top constitutional post.

Rejecting the argument that Ms Gandhi had changed her decision as her children, Rahul and Priyanka, did not want her to be the Prime Minister due to security considerations and the threat perception, a senior CPI leader remarked, “Where was this threat perception when she was holding roadshows across the country and mixing freely with the people?’’

He agreed that the reversal of her stand was also aimed at mounting indirect pressure on the Communist parties who had decided against joining the government. “If this is their understanding, it is wrong. Even if the Communist parties have to review their decision and join the government, one man cannot take the decision. In 1996, when the Central Committee of the CPM decided against joining the government and Madhavrao Scindia urged Marxist leader Jyoti Basu to lead the country as Prime Minister, it was decided to hold a Central Committee meeting again. Members of the Central Committee who were about to board trains for the return journey were called back and the decision has taken only after the Central Committee met again.’’

Party National Secretary, Mr Atul Kumar Anjaan, drew attention to the thesis of famous Bulagarian Marxist Georgie Dimitrov that when the Communists extend support to a government, it should be based on a class angle. The binding force is a Common Minimum Programme, he emphasised.

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