One year after it began extending outside support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, the Communist Party of India-Marxist seems to have amply learned the fine art of coalition politics -- the art of propping a government by opposing it.
But even as the CPI-M has assured continued support to the Manmohan government, the draft political resolution that the party is debating during its ongoing 18th congress in New Delhi says the party's goal should be to forge a third alternative.
"The CPI-M reaffirms its goal of forging a third alternative. But it is not an immediate possibility. We should strive for such an alternative by strengthening the party and the Left and rallying other secular non-Congress and non-Bharatiya Janata Party forces on a common policy platform and by having joint campaigns and movements," it says.
It says the third alternative, which the party has in mind, cannot be equated to the temporary electoral understanding and alliances that have been forged to meet immediate electoral aims.
It says that the CPI-M will continue to support the UPA government so that the levers of state power are not with the combination headed by the BJP.
"It is up to the UPA to ensure that its government has a stable tenure by implementing the pro-people measures as stated in the Common Minimum Programme and by maintaining its political cohesion," the draft political resolution pointed out.
CPI-M leaders, who are discussing the performance of the Manmohan government, said the Left parties feel that in essence the UPA coalition pursues the same policies as that of the previous [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee government.
"We do not find any change in the economic policies of this government when compared to the BJP government. This government is pursuing the same policies of liberalisation and privatisation," CPI-M Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, one of the powerful anti-Congress leaders in the party told rediff.com.
Vijayan pointed out some of the issues in which the CPI-M is opposed to the Manmohan government:
1) The UPA government wants to further liberalise the financial sector by facilitating the takeover of Indian private banks by foreign banks by implementing a proposal to allow 74 per cent FDI in Indian private banks announced by the previous government.
2) The government wants to privatise the insurance sector further.
3) The government is going ahead with privatisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports, a step initiated by the BJP-led government.
4) The government has proposed the raising of the Foreign Direct Investment caps in telecom and insurance in the 2004-05 Union budget, which has been halted due to the Left's opposition.
5) The government has also sought to circumvent its commitment not to privatise profitable Public Sector Units by gradually disinvesting shares in these units to meet its budgetary deficit.
"These are issues, which we do not want the government to carry out. But we know that the government will go ahead the way it wants. We are debating ways and means to ensure that we are taken into confidence on all policy matters of the government," Vijayan said.
He said most party delegates have agreed to the proposition that the CPI-M should play "an independent role" vis-à-vis the Manmohan government.
The draft political resolution also stresses the independent role that the party should play in the coming months.
"In the present situation the party has to play an independent role. That role implies criticising and opposing such steps of the government, which are against the people's interests, or are a departure from the CMP and are a continuation of the same type of policies as the previous government's," it says.
It warns that people should understand that Left parties are not supporting the government for continuing with the same discredited policies of the previous communal and right wing government.
CPI-M insiders said that this new role entails that the party and the Left conduct political campaigns to project the independent positions through popular mobilisations and struggles against the anti-people government policies.
"We are going to further activate our mass organisations to launch movements for pressurising the government to implement pro-people measures included in the CMP," a CPI-M delegate said.
"We will continue to support the Manmohan government. At same time, we will fight against the ill-effects of the continuing policies of liberalisation," he pointed out.