TAMIL NADU

Surjeet targets BJP, goes soft on Congress

KANNUR, FEB. 15. The 17th State conference of the CPI(M) began on a far from inspiring note here today with the party general secretary, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, going soft on the Congress and hardly touching on any major issue confronting the State or the State CPI(M) in his inaugural address.

The CPI(M) general secretary seemed to pursue to the last word the formulations in the draft political resolution to be moved at the 17th CPI(M) Congress to be held in Hyderabad next month, save on the question of the Third Front.

Though still tentative, he seemed to suggest that the Third Front was essential to fight the economic and foreign policies of the NDA Government.

In general, his speech seemed to suggest the manner in which the party perceived the national political situation to evolve in the coming days with the Congress playing a pivotal role.

Mr. Surjeet, speaking almost extempore, hit out at the BJP and said chalking out strategies to fight the BJP and the Sangh Parivar would be the main agenda of the CPI(M) conference here and the party congress in Hyderabad.

Although he was certain that the CPI(M) had to take the initiative in the matter, he would not say who all would be with the party in achieving this onerous task.

Referring to the Assembly elections, voting for which had already commenced, Mr. Surjeet said the BJP was certain to be trounced in these polls.

According to him, this was the right time to strike against the BJP which was pursuing dangerous foreign and economic policies.

He was confident that the Samajwadi Party (SP) would come out trumps in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls and described as baseless reports in a section of the media that the Congress was putting up a strong performance in western Uttar Pradesh.

He and the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Jyoti Basu, had addressed huge gatherings in the region along with the SP leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the large number who had gathered, braving rains, showed how strong the SP was, Mr. Surjeet said.

His reluctance to attack the Congress was evident in his comparisons between the BJP-led Government's policies and the policies that used to be pursued by previous Governments at the Centre.

In contrast to the policy of non-alignment, which was based on consensus, the BJP had put the nation "in the pockets of America" and on the economic front, its policies were even more dangerous as they placed the country at the mercy of imperialist forces, he explained.

The message seemed loud and clear -- that the party does not wish to treat the Congress as a pariah when it comes to fighting the BJP at the national level.

His only reference to Kerala was in the form of a parenthetical statement on the ongoing employees' strike. But he did not dwell at the length on the political significance of the struggle or the path ahead for the party and its mass organisations in the context of globalisation and liberalisation. His mention to the strike came in the form of a question how a Congress Chief Minister could defy the directive of the Congress president to hold discussions with the striking employees.

Although there was a mention about majoritarian communalism, he did not seem too eager to link it to the explosive communal situation in Kerala.

He accused the BJP of trying to bypass courts and even its NDA allies on the question of Ram temple and said this could ultimately prove to be a disruptive development.

His silence on the organisational woes of the CPI(M) in Kerala was understandable given the presence of the media and the general public at the inaugural session.

He is understood to have touched on these and other related issues besides giving the delegates some inkling of the Central leadership's mind on organisational matters, when he addressed them at the beginning of the delegates' session.

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