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Cracks appear in Congress-Left alliance

By R Prema in New Delhi
Last updated on: March 21, 2007 16:17 IST
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The Nandigram killings in the Left-ruled West Bengal may trigger fireworks at the United Progressive Alliance-Left coordination committee meeting slated for Friday at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence. The Communist Party of India-Marxist is itching to pull the rug from under Dr Singh's feet and an eerie political uncertainty has gripped the ruling alliance.

Congress MPs share the fear that the Opposition may take advantage of the situation and push for a no-confidence motion on April 26, the day Parliament reassembles after a five-week recess.

The administration has already come to a standstill, primarily because no senior bureaucrat is keen to take a decision on files to remain safe from petitions being filed increasingly under the Right to Information Act.

They are also restrained from taking decisions because they sense the lame-duck attitude of the political leadership as very few ministers are taking any major decisions.

Sources in the CPI-M said the party leaders are irked the way by the Central Bureau of Investigation is conducting the probe into the Nandigram episode. They cannot speak out in open but they will certainly lodge their protest to the prime minister at the CBI  naming four CPI-M members as being responsible for the massacre.

The CPI-M has earned the reputation of complaining and then backing down, instead of inviting any direct confrontation with the government.

However, the party sources said the party is now in the mood to take on the Congress. This might now become visible in the way the CPI-M is likely to attack the Congress on every move it takes.

CPI-M sources are also likely to raise the alleged corruption charges against the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ministers in the Centre.

On Monday night, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had a lengthy review of the political developments in the past two weeks with Prime Minister Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The meeting was convened basically to discuss what stand Dr Singh has to take in his talks with former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is threatening to pull down the Congress-led coalition government in the state on the issue of demilitarisation of civilian areas.

The meeting, however, took stock of the developing scenario vis-a-vis other allies of the UPA. The Telengana Rashtra Samithi had deserted it few months ago while the MDMK withdrew support last week.

Further, Nationalist Congress Party chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has been asserting his party's right to align with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, even while being part of the Congress-led government in the state.

The meeting of Mufti and the prime minister, which was slated for Tuesday, was first delayed to Thursday.

Congress sources have said the consensus at the Monday meeting was to buy time from Mufti at least until the end of the first week of April on the ground that he should not precipitate any crisis in Jammu and Kashmir when the central government is busy with the SAARC conference in Delhi.

According to a report, Dr Singh will frankly tell Mufti that the demands his Peoples' Democratic Party has been raising tallied with the formula Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has been  floating and hence a wrong signal would go internationally if the Centre acts on them.

Party sources said the prime minister has already given a written assurance to Mufti to consider withdrawal of the central security forces from civilian areas after watching the situation in the next two or three months to be reassured that the militancy would not shoot up in the wake of any pullout.

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R Prema in New Delhi