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The Parallel Coup

Swapan Das Gupta
India Today
May 10, 1999.

    Title: The Parallel Coup
    Author: Swapan Das Gupta
    Publication: India Today
    Date: May 10, 1999.
    So the truth is finally out, courtesy Jyoti Basu and Somnath
    Chatterjec.  Far from being an upholder of Marxist fundamentalism, the
    CPI)M) has evolved into a pragmatic and eminently flexible
    organisation.  So pragmatic that it is willing to digest dynastic
    democracy when necessary and so flexible as to furtively steal a
    government where possible.  
    The events of April are not only about a meticulously planned coup by
    Sonia Gandhi to fell Atal Bihari Vajpayee and install herself in Race
    Course Road.  There was a sub-plot too.  It centred on a parallel
    operation to trip Sonia at the last hurdle and clear the way for
    India's first communist prime minister.  If conspiratorial whispers in
    Lutyens' Delhi are to be believed, the sub-plot had the tacit approval
    of a house on Raisina Hill.  
    Don't get it wrong.  There is nothing politically and morally,
    reprehensible about the CPI(M) turning its back on its 199 8 Calcutta
    congress resolution and preferring the Popular Front approach rather
    than the United Front approach.  Communist orthodoxy-borrowed from
    European and Chinese experiences of the 19 30s and'40s-has a place for
    either approaches.  There would have been nothing particularly
    heretical about the CPI(M) participating in a government in which the
    Left was not the dominant partner.  True, it would have obliterated
    the difference between the CPI and CPI(M), but that would have been of
    academic interest to the dogmatists alone.
    The point is that the CPI(M) didn't play with a straight bat.  After
    Vajpayee fell on April 17, H.S.  Surjeet was among the first to offer
    fulsome support to a Sonia-led Congress-only government.  When initial
    noises were made by the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav about Basu
    heading a Third Front government, it was Sonia who said that the West
    Bengal chief minister "wasn't interested".  Arjun Singh put his own
    twist and dubbed the idea as ridiculous as making Ajit Jogi the prime
    minister.  The CPI(M) didn't get offended then.  So why are Surjeet
    and Basu now complaining about Sonia's consistency?  Why is Basu
    making inferences about "foreign powers" blocking his road to Delhi? 
    Unless this is his way of belatedly questioning Sonia's Indian
    credentials.  If so, it is strange it didn't occur to the avowedly
    internationalist CPI(M) earlier.
    Obviously something doesn't square up.  It would seem that the gushing
    support to Sonia by the CPI(M) was prefaced on the understanding that
    the Congress would find itself short of the promised 272 MPs at the
    last minute.  This is precisely what happened with the Samajwadi
    Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc developing cold
    feet.  Is it a mere coincidence that all these parties enjoy a special
    relationship with the CPI(M)?  Is it also a coincidence that
    Chatterjee's leak to a Calcutta media group that the Politburo was
    ready to allow Basu to head a Third Front government was timed to
    match a sense of despondency in the Congress camp?  Reconstructing the
    events, the conclusion is inescapable that the CPI(M) wanted to
    present Sonia with a fait accompli: either Basu or a restored
    Vajpayee.  Sonia didn't blink.  Did she know that Vajpayee wouldn't be
    given a second chance under any circumstances?
    As India readies for the 13th Lok Sabha these are academic questions. 
    But one thing is clear: Basu and the CPI(M) were willing, always
    willing.  Their coyness was just a convenient facade.  The communist
    coup was premised on plain duplicity.

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