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Anti-NDA forces must unite: Bardhan

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MAY 3. The CPI general secretary, A. B. Bardhan, has said that all parties fighting the BJP and the NDA should have a place in the proposed secular democratic coalition.

Participating in a `Meet-the-Press' programme organised by the Kesari Memorial Journalists' Trust here today, Mr. Bardhan said the secular alliance must not start out on a policy of exclusion except in cases where there is no agreement on a `common minimum programme'.

The CPI leader said the time had come for the Opposition parties to speak in positive terms what they would do if elected to office. Any Government to be formed by such a secular alliance should last five years undoing several of the actions of the NDA Government, honouring the court verdict in the Ayodhya case and giving full justice to the victims of the `genocide' in Gujarat.

It should also put an end to disinvestment of public sector units, implement employment-oriented projects and re-impose quantitative restrictions on agricultural commodities such as tea, jute and coconut, he said.

Mr. Bardhan said the party that would lead such a coalition would be decided after the results were known. He did not wish to question the general perception that the Congress would emerge as the second largest single party and would naturally acquire the right to lead the Opposition alliance, but cautioned that the Congress leading the coalition would not automatically mean that it would lay down the policies of the alliance.

The CPI, he said, was determined to support a secular Government. The party has not taken any decision on participating in such a Government, but would take a decision on the matter at the party national executive committee meeting slated for May 15 and 16 after considering all aspects of the issue.

The Left had 43 members in the 13th Lok Sabha. The objective of Left parties was to raise the Left's membership in Parliament to at least 60 members. In a `divided' Parliament, this would give the Left enough clout to intervene decisively in formulation of policies in favour of the poor, he added.

Mr. Bardhan said the BJP, which had `arrogantly' talked about getting two-third majority in the beginning, had become jittery. That was why the Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee, had begun talking about stability, to woo Muslims and seek one more term to finish the `unfinished tasks' of the NDA Government.

Mr. Bardhan said the Prime Minister must clarify what he meant by unfinished tasks - building the temple or selling off the remaining public sector units as well. The NDA as a coalition was dead, `unsung and unwept'. What remained was the BJP and several of the issues that had been kept out of the common minimum programme of the NDA as `contentious issues' were now part of the NDA agenda, he pointed out.

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