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Left parties to field Lakshmi Sahgal

By Our Special Correspondent


Lakshmi Sahgal

NEW DELHI JUNE 14. The Left parties and the Janata Dal (Secular) today decided to field the veteran freedom fighter, Lakshmi Sahgal, to contest the Presidential poll against A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, candidate of the ruling National Democratic Alliance and a majority of the Opposition.

While conceding that the "fight is unequal'', the Left parties — the CPI(M), the CPI, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All-India Forward Bloc — asserted it was a "political battle'', not aimed at an individual and it demonstrated the unity of the Left.

Announcing the candidature of the 87-year-old Capt. Sahgal, at a joint press conference here, the CPI (M) general secretary, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the CPI general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, the RSP Secretary, Abani Roy, and his Forward Bloc counterpart, G. Devarajan, said her name was also agreed to by both the former Prime Ministers, V.P. Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda, whose party JD (S) was part of the now dissolved People's Front. The Front fell apart after the key constituent, the Samajwadi Party, broke ranks to back Dr. Kalam.

The Left leaders described Capt. Sahgal as a symbol of the Indian freedom movement who dedicated her life for the betterment of the people. The Left parties wondered how the Congress and other Opposition parties could not support her.

``How can they (Congress) now justify their opposition to the BJP policies and support their nominee'', the CPI (M) politburo member, Sitaram Yechury, said later.

The Left leaders said Capt. Sahgal, who was associated with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and played a lead role in the formation of the Rani Jhansi regiment, was active both militarily and on the medical front. She was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1998 and now works at her maternity home.

Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party, which has been under attack by the Left parties ever since it decided to back Dr. Kalam, today joined issue with them. The party General Secretary, Amar Singh, charged that the Left parties had "no principle and consistency''.

He said the People's Front was formed to maintain equidistance from the Congress and the BJP, but the Left took a pro-Congress line to oppose the NDA candidate for the post, though the Congress eventually declared its support to Dr. Kalam.

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