For Coalition With Cong, Only CPM Party Congress Can Reverse Policy
There is a groundswell of support for the Left Front-Congress combine in West Bengal to ensure that the anti-Trinamool Congress vote does not get split, says CPM’s general secretary Sitaram Yechury. In an interview to & he says the CPM’s 2015 party congre
Who do you expect to win in West Bengal – the Congress-Left Front alliance or Trinamool Congress? All I can say is that there is a fight, which was not the case in the last few rounds of elections including the local bodies. This time around there is a fight…If there is a free and fair election, I think the TMC will face a defeat.
What about Kerala? Will it be the Congress-led alliance or the CPM-led alliance? The CPM-led alliance. I am fairly sure in Kerala this time the CPM is going to form the government.
Isn’t there a contradiction in teaming up with the Congress in West Bengal and fighting against it in Kerala? There is no contradiction at all because there is no political alliance or understanding with the Congress in West Bengal. It’s not like the leadership of these two parties are meeting and shaking hands and saying let’s go together. What is happening in Bengal is an extraordinary situation. There is a big upsurge from below, where people are forcing a non-division of the anti-Trinamool vote.
If such is the upsurge from below, then why not have a formal alliance? The point is the CPM party congress much before elections had adopted a political resolution which said clearly that Well, these are matters that we will discuss when the situation arises... As I told you, no alliance, no understanding with the Congress. It is a decision of the party congress, which only the next party congress can change. Nobody else has any authority to change. So that remains. That we will see as and when the situation emerges.
How will the CPM party congress respond to such pressures from below when it meets next? At the time of the Emergency also we supported the Janata party government from outside. This is an intellectual property right of the CPM, if we can call it that — ‘outside support’.
For the first time, the CPM’s state secretary in West Bengal is contesting the polls. Why isn’t the same thing happening in Kerala? Again, (due to) the extraordinary situation in Bengal. Normally, state secretaries do not contest an election because party organisation is important. But in Bengal, Surjya Kanta Mishra has emerged as the face of the opposition in the last five years and in a sense symbolises what is happening in Bengal. So, the party thought that his being in the fray is important.
Who is Surjya Kanta’s counterpart in Kerala? Who among Pinarayi Vijayan and VS Achuthanandan is the face of the Opposition in the state? The face is always that of the CPM hammer and sickle. And then there are individual faces. Pinarayi Vijayan also emerged as a people’s symbol… the huge jattha from north to south was led by him. All the issues that were raised, all the alternative policies that we suggested…he was there. VS Achuthanandan is the leader of the Opposition…for what he is and his contribution for decades…he is a very respected figure who is consistent with his position on polices and political morality, anti-corruption, etc. So both are the faces and the collective face of the party.
Why isn’t Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee campaigning? There are still five phases to go. Bhattacharjee is very much there. He is the one who is the biggest input provider in terms of the content of the campaign, the manifesto. He will come forward at the appropriate time.
With the emergence of new forces such as Aam Aadmi Party and various Dalit groups, does the Left need to reinvent itself? I would not say reinvent as it suggests a newborn. But the Left has to adapt. That I believe is the lifeline philosophy of Marxism. Concrete analysis of concrete conditions – that is the essence. As the concrete conditions keep changing, if our analysis does not change, I personally think, then you are not a Marxist…A process of churning has been set in motion...A couple of years ago you would have said that there was no youth behind the Left. Now you see Kanhaiya in JNU, Rohith in Hyderabad, what’s happening in FTII, what’s happening in Allahabad University, a girl student from the Left was elected students’ union chief.
Is the AAP taking over the Left space and is Left getting less and less attractive? It is not a question of Left being attractive. It is a question of Left’s ability to take its understanding to the people. AAP says the same things that the Left says on many issues, but they had the organisational ability in places like Delhi to actually carry it to the people, in social media through usage of modern technology. We were lagging in these things…but we have been working on social media. We have been late, I admit. But, now we are a force in social media. You cannot miss us. It will improve further.
Are you surprised by how Rahul Gandhi has come up recently? He has surprised everybody. Let’s see. He has got to work and handle actual situations. It all depends as his mother is still there in command of the organisation.
Do you think Narendra Modi is as popular as he was when he became prime minister? I doubt it. Apart from engineered and propaganda things, I do not know. Even if you consider Delhi and Bihar (results) as one-off things, he is not able to evoke the same kind of response we saw in 2014. And I would say, such a rapid decline is very surprising. I have never seen it happen in less than two years.
Are alliances of the sort we have seen in Bihar the way forward? The current situation is evolving very rapidly. It’s similar to what happened during the last months of the Emergency. It may not yet be fully similar but is moving in that direction…there was a general public discontent that was consolidated. The attacks on the universities, the question of intolerance, the question of the attacks on minorities and the hangings in Jharkhand… and there are various things that the Hindutva outfits are mounting in different places…in that manner resentment or resistance to that is developing. In that process there is a very deep churning taking place. That’s why what you would have normally never expected in Bihar – the Mahagathbandhan – happened. Not only pure hedonistic political calculations of leadership…every leadership also realises the pressure from below. You have seen what happened in Delhi. Whatever be the methodology of AAP, there was also groundswell.
Why has your party congress been reluctant even when results have been favourable? In our final analysis, whether it was the 1977 government, the ’89 VP Singh government , the ’96 UDF government or the 2004 UPA government, eventually the policies they followed were polices we considered were not in the interest of the people of this country. So, with each one of them, the rupture came, and it came on the basis of their violation of the common minimum programme. Would this “violation” have happened had the CPM been part of the government? That is speculation. That is precisely what we want to protect ourselves from. If you are already part of the government, then you are co-opted by them.
Turning to Hyderabad and JNU cases…ABVP says that Jai Bhim (Ambedkarite) groups in campuses are a proxy for Leftist ideology for a social engineering… That is their fanciful thinking.
What is the difference between Lal Salaam and Jai Bhim? Is
the university campus emerging as a meeting ground? Jai Bhim is sometimes interpreted exclusively for the Dalit rights. Lal Salaam is what we say…that those very Dalit rights can only be enforceable if you also ensure economic empowerment of Dalits. And that will require a social transformation. That’s where the meeting point is emerging. Jai Bhim and Lal Salaam should combine with the slogan of Inquilab Zindabad. That is the convergence between the Left and the Dalit groups.
Do you feel Kanhaiya and Rohith have given a fresh lease of life to the Left? They were also the product of movement itself. Rohith was a product of this convergence that we are talking about. And so is Kanhaiya. He is also the part of the churning that is going on. And that churning is very, very good and very positive for the country. What the Left wants is give the churning a right direction lest it dissipates into the wrong direction.
Churning is also happening among the working class…Who would have imagined INTUC, BMS would join the Left-affiliated unions for a nationwide strike?