D Raja interview: ‘CPI will have to be active at grassroots’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/d-raja-cpi-general-secretary-interview-party-will-have-to-be-active-at-grassroots-5840760/

D Raja interview: ‘CPI will have to be active at grassroots’

On a day he took over as CPI general secretary, D Raja speaks to Manoj C G on the road ahead for the party and why the Left continues to be relevant.

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A Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, Raja now becomes the first Dalit leader to be the general Secretary of a mainstream party in India. His RS term ends on July 24. (File)

On a day he took over as CPI general secretary, D Raja speaks to Manoj C G on the road ahead for the party and why the Left continues to be relevant.

You are taking over as the general secretary of the CPI at a difficult time for the party in particular and the Left movement in general. How big is the challenge?

The recent elections were a setback to the entire Left and the CPI also. And on the other side, a right-wing political party has come to power with more strength. Now they will try to implement their agenda of redefining nation and nationhood. And they will try to pursue their agenda of Hindutva. The economic policies, despite their rhetoric, are all anti-people and retrograde measures. So on one side, we will have to fight for the democracy, defence of Constitution and on the other, we will have to fight for the rights of the people.

The Left has always raised the issue of growing economic inequality. You are saying that it has only deepened, that there are job losses and joblessness. Ideally, it is a fertile situation for the Communist movement, but the Left is losing its space.

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Exactly. That is why we do not buy the arguments of some intellectuals who think the relevance of Left has gone, who question the future of the Left. The Left’s relevance will be there. Left is the hope for the nation and the people.

But electorally you are at your lowest point?

Despite the electoral victory, the BJP cannot claim it has won the political and social battle. Otherwise, why would they allow the kind of mob lynching, attack on Dalits and minorities…It is the politics of intimidation.

But isn’t it time for the Left to rethink or review if not your core ideology then the way you are implementing it. There are few takers if you look at it from an electoral point of view.

The Left should address the Indian social reality. Marxism is science. How do you apply the science, how do you apply the ideology to the concrete situation in India? Indian society is a complex society. The Communists should understand the superstructure, base relationship, Communists should address the social issues, the caste issues, the social divisions and economic inequalities. Indian revolution cannot be won by fighting only on economic demands.

You are the first Dalit to become the CPI general secretary. Why did it take so long for a Communist party to appoint a Dalit at its helm despite all talk of social equality?

It also reflects the Indian social reality. And the Communist party is not in an abstract situation… it also shows that Communist party is changing.

But why did it take so long?

It is the Indian system. That is what people should understand… How Ambedkar had to fight, Gandhi had to fight against untouchability…I recently said in Parliament that caste is anti-national. I told BJP that if you want to build new India, then declare new India will not have caste and manual scavenging.

What is your immediate priority?

We should instill confidence in the minds of the people and lead them in action, in movements and struggle. People will have to stand up and fight, resist. They cannot lie low and succumb to whatever the government dictates.

But the traditional form of agitations which Left used to lead…don’t you think it has become outdated? The dharnas, bandhas, marches at Jantar Mantar. Do you think the Left has to change?

That will be there. Other forms will also evolve. It is a reaction to what this government does that will decide the forms of agitations… There will be resistance and resistance can take any form.

In the last 5-10 years, we have seen new leaders emerging. From Arvind Kejriwal to Jignesh Mewani and Chandrasekhar Azad…non-conventional leaders are emerging. They are raising issues which the Left raised and are perhaps reflecting the mood of the people in a better way.

It is not non-conventional. Even if political parties do not provide organised leadership, people are not going to keep quiet. There are spontaneous revolts and struggles… The Communists will have to assess because spontaneity will always be there.

Sitaram Yechury and D Raja at a press conference on freedom and pluralism in Mumbai. File/Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar.

These are issues which the Left used to raise. But you did not fill in at the right moment?

That is where we think the party will have to be active at the grassroots. The party should be with people. The life of the party is living with the masses.

So you need to change?

Yes. There is no way out but to go to the people, reconnect with and reach out to people. Lead the people and learn from the people.

The CPI has always been saying that it is time for reunification of the Communist parties. But the CPM has never shown much interest. What is your message to the CPM leadership?

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We are for the reunification of the Communist movement on a principled basis. Even to clap, you need two hands. When Indrajit Gupta and Harkishan Singh Surjeet were general secretaries of the CPI and CPM, we sent out a joint circular to establish coordination committees at state level between the CPI and the CPM. But that process could not be continued. Now the time has come. We will have to think of some way out to carry forward that process.