KALYAN Singh gave a talking point to the United Front by forming a jumbo ministry in Uttar Pradesh,but the Left is still trying to come to terms with the differences the UP crisis highlighted within the fold.
It was the CPI stand, articulated by the redoubtable Indrajit Gupta, that kicked off a storm. Usually satisfied in dovetailing itself with "big brother" CPI(M) on the "line" to adopt on such issues, the fact that their most respected leader—and home minister—was called on to play a crucial role led the CPI to take a definite stand from October 19, when the BSP withdrew support to Kalyan Singh's government.
"We demanded the resignation of Kalyan Singh on moral grounds and made it clear that the BJP was making a mockery of democratic norms by insisting that it would be able to prove a majority, because the only way they could do that was through horse-trading," says CPI secretary D. Raja. But the CPI, with Gupta and Cabinet colleague Chaturanan Mishra spearheading the fold, also clarified that the legality of any step the UF proposed to take should be above board: "If time was to be given to Kalyan before facing the Assembly according to legal precedents, then so be it. And if Kalyan proved his majority on the floor of the House, there was no point in recommending Central rule." And now that the BJP is tying itself up in knots, the CPI stand seems vindicated. It favoured observing parliamentary norms and was against the misuse of Article 356, saying that "the fight against the BJP has to be waged politically". A stand seemingly endorsed by Jyoti Basu.
Though within the CPI itself, general secretary A.B. Bardhan is reportedly "sympathetic" to CPI(M) general secretary Harkis-hen Singh Surjeet's "hardline" stand which some partymen are uncomfortable with.
Leaders in both the Left parties admit that Surjeet, in a bid to mollify Mulayam Singh Yadav, whom he sees as a "bulwark against the BJP" in north India, has gone a bit over the top. His stand at the meeting of the Left parties, the UF core committee, and the steering committee over the past week in support of Mulayam's wrath is seen as proof of the fact that CPI(M) "hard-liners" are still unrepentant.
On the other hand, CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechuri, whom many feel was unfairly made the villain of the piece by the media, in an interview to a party newspaper, has also pointed out that the CPI(M) demanded Kalyan's dismissal without giving him any time before the BJP proved its majority—albeit through dubious means—on the floor of the House. Denying any rift in the party on the issue, Yechuri told Outlook that at the time the CPI(M) stand was that "the BJP could muster a majority through horse-trading because all parties apart from the BSP—which had now withdrawn support—had given in writing to the governor that they would not support the BJP after the 1996 elections itself." The CPI(M) clarified that after the BJP won the vote and the president turned down the recommendation for Central rule, it conveyed to the prime minister that the Cabinet should withdraw its decision.
But any brownie points due to the CPI(M) seem certainly to have been foregone by Surjeet's offensive against those who have never fought the BJP on the ground and are therefore using parliamentary niceties to fight "fascist forces". The effect of which has been to pacify Mula-yam a little. But it has also resulted in the most recognisable face of the CPI(M)—Jyoti Basu—being virtually isolated in his party with even Surjeet siding with hardliners. Setting the stage for an interesting 1998, when both parties have their party congress.