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CPI(M) identifying seats to contest

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, FEB. 8. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) which has decided to contest about 70 seats in the coming Lok Sabha elections has begun the task of identifying them.

The CPI(M) would contest 32 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal. It was in the process of finalising seats in Kerala, where it contested 14 in 1999.

It plans to field two candidates each in Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharasthra and at least one in Assam, Bihar, Punjab, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Orissa, the CPI(M) politburo member, Prakash Karat, said.

The party's central committee at its recent meeting in Hyderabad had said that the aim in contesting around 70 seats was to increase the strength of the Left in Parliament.

Besides Kerala where the CPI(M) leads the Left Democratic Front, the party has been allocated two constituencies in Tamil Nadu - Madurai and Nagercoil — where it is part of the Democratic Progressive Alliance forged by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The party is now engaged in discussions with the Congress for a seat adjustment in Andhra Pradesh. The CPI(M), which contested the 1999 elections on its own, has staked its claim for Khammam and Miryalaguda seats held by Renuka Chowdhary and S. Jaipal Reddy of the Congress in the dissolved Lok Sabha. In the last election, the party had polled 20 per cent and 14 per cent of the votes respectively. It is understood that the party has sought Nellore-reserved as an alternative to one of the two constituencies.

In Karnataka, the fourth State in the south, the CPI(M) would not be contest since its ally the Janata Dal-Secular of H.D. Deve Gowda has decided to field candidates in all the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies. But there is a move to seek some seats for the Assembly in the wake of reports of an early poll. Interestingly, while the Left Front has already announced its candidates for West Bengal, the JD(S) was making a case that the party be accommodated in the State for Lok Sabha polls.

Among the States where the party would contest at least one constituency include, Hoshiarpur (Punjab), Sirsa (Haryana), Sikar (Rajasthan), Barpeta and possibly Silichar (Assam), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Garhwal (Uttaranchal), Kanker (Chhattisgarh), and the lone seats in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

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