India Intelligence Report

   PM Finally stands up to Commies


In a very refreshing, albeit belated, twist, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seen to be standing up to the communist allies who support the Government from the outside but have only increased the level of pain of operation on several policy fronts. The new area of conflict is the much-delayed decision to raise the prices of petrol and diesel to reflect market prices.

The communists argue that prices of oil cannot be raised because that would increase the prices of other commodities and will affect the population at large. They argue that the subsidy from the government has been shifted to oil marketing companies and that the revenue earned by the government has gone up from Rs 96,000 crore (USD 21.5 billion) to Rs 126,000 crore (USD 28 billion). The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) has urged the Government to “correct this policy distortion in the interest of the common people.”

Peeved by the relentless aggressive meddling of CPM leader Prakash Karat on larger policy issues ranging from social to foreign affairs, Singh cancelled his scheduled visit to Kolkata, the bastion of CPM to send a strong message that he will no longer accept the known as the “Prakash Karat line.” Singh is said to be unhappy with the way the Left had been going ballistic on issues such as the petroleum price increase, modernization of airports, and public sector divestment. Singh sees the same degree of “aggression and cussedness” as before the elections—the implication being that election grandstanding is one thing and arm-twisting is another.

Reports said that Singh wanted to convey the message that his cordial personal relations with West Bengal reformist Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee should not be “taken for granted” and seen as being immune to consequences of the Left’s hostile “rhetoric.” Singh was to have met Bhattacharjee who is keen to ensure continued central support for his industrialization initiative--although the License Raj has been abolished, there is a lot of room still for the centre to play in a state’s development.

This is the first time Singh has stood up to the communists but has not leveraged this power yet. Reports say that it was only inevitable that he would do so at some point as the CPM leadership’s leverage of its strength in the Lok Sabha for incessant and needless assaults becomes unbearable. It is possible that Singh is turning up pressure as a ploy to get Bhattacharjee to force the communist leadership in Delhi, particularly general secretary Karat, to moderate his language.