Left reaches out to ruling Congress party (Reuters)

The leader of India’s biggest communist party said he would be open to talking to the ruling Congress party to support the formation of an alternative “Third Front” government after an upcoming general election.
The statement by Prakash Karat, head of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), signals a shift in India’s political sands, opening up the chance of a Left-Congress pact after they split angrily last year over a civilian nuclear deal with the United States.
The CPI(M) and smaller left parties were crucial in giving the ruling Congress party-led coalition a majority in parliament from 2004 to 2008, but they blocked many economic reforms such as privatisation.
“We can do business with them and ask them to support an alternative secular formation, it’s possible — why not, I don’t rule it out,” Karat said in an interview with NDTV news channel.
A brief transcript of the interview was published on Thursday. The full interview will be broadcast on Sunday.
India holds a general election from 16 April to 13 May. The major battle is between the Congress coalition and an alliance led by the the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
The CPI(M) is a major force behind a “Third Front” of smaller regional parties that aims to challenge Congress and the BJP.
“It’s a big change, especially from someone as hawkish as Karat,” said political analyst Amulya Ganguli. “He’s indicating that the Third Front could be open to the outside support of Congress to form a government.”
The motive for the two sides getting together could be to stop Hindu nationalists from gaining power, analysts say.
Ganguli said there were two possibilities from Karat’s statement. Firstly, a Third Front could do well in the election, and ask for outside support of Congress to gain a parliamentary majority. A similar thing happened in 1996.
Or, a Congress-led alliance could win office with outside support of the Third Front, or just the communists.
“It’s not a question of untouchability. We’ll do business with all parties but that business will be circumscribed by the nature of the mandate,” Karat said.
A poll of 14 leading analysts by Reuters published on Tuesday gave a 32% chance of a Congress-led government supported by the communists.


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