Prakash Karat, former CPM general secretary known to oppose any party links with the Congress, has not said a definite no to the question of a tie up in Bengal or the upcoming Assembly polls and set political circles abuzz. Mr Karat could have repeated the CPM's official line, formulated at the Party Congress in April which says no truck with the Congress. But he did not.
Mr Karat was asked why, in the face of much speculation about a CPM-Congress tie up, the answer could not be a simple no. His answer, "Politics is just not yes and no. Yes or no. Sometimes it is yes and no. So you wait and see what we do. We have a Left Front here, a state committee. I cannot presume what they want or plan to do or deal with situation in Bengal."
"Everybody knows there is an extraordinary situation in Bengal...To fight against such an authoritarian regime, we will discuss what tactics are required."
The CPM general secretary, Mr Sitaram Yechury, too, has not said no. He has even set a time frame for clarity. "The West Bengal unit has said discussions on the issue will begin in January. Let them say what they want to the Politburo. Then we will take a call," he said.
Mr Karat said the Bengal unit should decide in four to six weeks.
Mr Yechury leaving options open is not surprising. For Mr Karat do so, is. He is viewed as a 'hardliner' and believed to be among those who opposed prime ministership for Jyoti Basu and wanted Somnath Chatterjee to resign as Speaker during the nuclear deal debate. He supported if not spearheaded the decision to pull out of UPA II.
Mr Karat laughed off the 'hardline' tag at the Kolkata press conference. "Why am I considered to be a hardliner? You (the media) are the people creating that."
The Trinamool shrugged off Mr Karat's comment. MP Derek O'Brien said, "Our political opponents - in alphabetical order - for the 2016 polls are BJP, CPM, Congress."
If CPM and Congress indeed join hands in Bengal, it could be a major shift in India's politics.