Friday, September 21, 2007

Split within CPM more pronounced over nuclear issue

It would seem that the debate within the Communist party (CPM) over the issue of withdrawing support over the nuclear issue is continuing, and is not a done deal. Initially, there were just plain suspicions that there would be tension between the West Bengal unit of the CPM and the central Politburo; there were unnamed sources in the West Bengal unit who claimed that the attitude of the central leadership was not comfortable to the West Bengal unit. They are in a state which needs to rapidly develop, it's people are looking for development and they have already faced a mini-revolt over the issue of earlier land acquisition for development, with Mamta Banerjee leading the protest.
As the tension between the Left and the Congress escalated, and the Congress got support from its other allies, there must have been a lot of thought going into the West Bengal leadership about what this means for the state. For many of their measures, such as rural electrification, industrialization and SEZ's, they need to have a friendly centre. In a small indicator of what a uncooperative center can mean, the West Bengal Government faced problems regarding getting funds for rural electrification. And of course, a Congress aligning with Mamta Banerjee is the worst nightmare for the Left (and by Left, I primarily mean the CPM, since the CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc don't seem to care all too much).
But now, it seems that the state unit is either unable to make its wishes clear internally or is sending out signals to the Congress that a condition of irreversability has not been reached. So, first the powerful Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee made an interview where he said that nuclear energy is useful, and then the 'wise' old statesman of the Left, Jyoti Basu essentially claimed that the deal was a useful deal and meant nuclear energy. For some time now, the likes of Prakash Karat have been rolling the nuclear deal to mean India being a US vassal, a strategic ally, and that since the deal is with the US which is anathema for the Left, it should be reversed.

"The Indo-US nuclear deal is for nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is necessary and there is a need for nuclear power plants. With new industries mushrooming, the demand for power will increase," Basu told reporters after the party's state secretariat meeting here.
He also expressed hope that the conflict between Left parties and the UPA government over the Indo-US nuclear deal would ease after the CPM's politburo and central committee meetings here. "CPI-M's Politburo and central committee would meet in Kolkata from September 28 to October 1, which will be followed by a joint meeting of the UPA-Left committee on the nuclear deal. There could be some easing off of the situation," he said.

These are pretty large statements, and one wonders as to exactly what this means. Could it really mean that the West Bengal leadership has managed to get a reversal of the overall situation and that the left will keep on making a hue and cry, but will not pull out ? Seems a bit unlikely, but stranger things have happened. However, if that happens, it will be a severe setback for Prakash Karat, and will demonstrate that elected politicians are the ones who wield power.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:13 AM