Says progressive parties will gain strength to check Centre
KOLKATA: Launching his campaign for the Left Front in West Bengal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat on Thursday said the current Assembly elections would have a "definite impact" on national politics.
Mr. Karat, who arrived here after campaigning in Kerala, said with the State set for the return of CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front and West Bengal re-electing the Left Front for the seventh time, progressive and democratic parties would gain strength to check the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre.
Speaking in Hindi at a public meeting here, Mr. Karat said: "For the last two years that we have been supporting the Manmohan Singh Government, our effort is to make it implement the pro-people policies promised in the common minimum programme, and victory in these elections would give strength to exert further pressure to do so."
Criticising the Centre, he said it was under pressure from the United States to open up retail trade and other areas for American money. The UPA Government voted with Washington against Iran on the nuclear issue, which went against the promise of an independent foreign policy.
While the Left parties were not against foreign direct investment, they would launch and intensify campaign against opening up retail trade as it would hit lakhs and lakhs of Indians who earn a living on it, Mr. Karat said.
Stating that after the visit of U.S. President George Bush, it handed a 24-point charter of things India should do to open its economy, Mr. Karat said the Manmohan Singh Government must clarify whether it wanted to work for the implementation of the "pro-people CMP or a CMP of George Bush."
In the same breath, he said, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Opposition was not interested in raising issues of people's concern and, instead, its leaders embarked on twin-yatras as the party did not believe in promoting communal harmony.
The BJP-led alliance was disintegrating with parties such as the Asom Gana Parishad, the Telugu Desam Party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the National Conference announcing that they were no longer with the BJP.
Responding to the Congress charge that 29 years of Left Front policies had led to the closure of industries in West Bengal, Mr. Karat said industries in other States, including Maharashtra, had shut down. This was on account of Central polices after the Narasimha Rao Government opened up the economy in 1991. It spelt doom for the domestic and small-scale industries and agriculture. The Congress should first correct its policies. The West Bengal Government was taking steps to attract investment and create employment opportunities.
Taking a dig at political rivals on allegations about electoral malpractices in the State, Mr. Karat said after the elections all charges of "scientific rigging" would be disproved forever. "I don't think that the Election Commission has any complaint" after the peaceful round of polling in the first phase.