The CPM draft resolution says the main task is to defeat the BJP by rallying secular and democratic forces, yet without an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress. Isn’t this contradictory?
There is no contradiction. It appears contradictory to people who see elections purely as putting together some parties and it is a game of numbers. For us, it is a political fight. It is a question about how do you effectively mobilise people and forces to fight the BJP. Fighting the Modi government’s policies – economic, social, foreign policy etc etc… It means the people affected by these policies, primarily economic policies… workers, farmers, middle class, small shopkeepers… The Congress has the same class character and pursues the same economic policies as the BJP.
In fact, they pioneered it. So when we go to the people to mobilise them to fight against these policies, the Congress cannot be an ally or partner in this.
It also talks about drawing up appropriate electoral tactics to maximise pooling of anti-BJP votes. Based on the above political line.
How can this be done without the Congress, the largest secular party?
Electoral tactics will be worked out based on our political line. There are various political forces that may be fighting the BJP electorally but with whom we may not be able to have an understanding because of our political approach. In that context, how do you maximise? It is not a new thing. Even in 1993, after the Babri Masjid demolition, there were elections to states where BJP governments were dismissed. That is the first time we discussed the matter. We said here is a danger, this is the party which engineered the demolition. But we cannot have an understanding with the Congress… We took a decision that we will fight a limited number of seats where we have some effective strength, and in the rest we will generally campaign for the defeat of the BJP.
So, you plan to do this again?
Depends. The concrete tactics cannot be worked out now. At the appropriate time, when elections will be held… there are some assembly elections coming and Lok Sabha elections next year. At that time, we will work out
the appropriate tactics.
But wouldn’t these tactics indirectly help the Congress?
It is not a question of helping or gaining. Our political line is to first ensure that the independent strength of the party grows. There has been a decline of the strength of the CPM and the Left, not in terms of elections [but] in terms of building movements and building our political influence.
The main priority, secondly, is to build a Left and democratic alternative. The alternative does not include parties like the Congress… When election comes, we will assess the correlation of forces at that time… how do we intervene to maximise our goal of defeating the BJP.
In the last four years, the BJP has gained in strength. Despite that, you feel the line adopted at the last party congress still holds?
That is because essentially we are seeing it as political-ideological fight which, if we conduct it effectively, will reflect in the electoral thing also… Our resolutions point out that the BJP has politically consolidated itself… how have they done it… One key question is… we firmly believe that the main thrust must be on the economic policies of this government.
What has been the main source of discontent? Where are the struggles breaking up?
It is among the farmers, in rural areas… in BJP ruled states… People have come out and mobilised primarily on the issues of their livelihood. That is where we can build the widest unity also… there we don’t make any distinction. Everybody can join.
Why are you not able to expand independently outside three states? In Bengal too, you have suffered.
That is precisely the reason. Because even in recent years, we have suffered a setback in Bengal… In our review, it was found that in many states the prolonged alliances with bourgeois parties, regional parties, have eroded our own independent base… If you don’t have your independent projection of your politics… if young people don’t see much difference between your party and other parties… naturally we will not be able to attract.
The CPI has called your political resolution self-contradictory.
We have seen their draft. We have had discussions with them. In the last one year, they have changed their understanding midway after their last party congress. Yes, they are for a line which is for a wider unity of what they call democratic and secular forces, which include the Congress. We don’t agree, we have already told them that. And this has been one of the basic dividing lines between the CPM and CPI… Self-contradictory for them, it seems… The corollary is that they consider the Congress a natural ally which we don’t. We have worked together despite having
differences… We have seen what happened in the past with the line of seeing Congress as the ally.
In 2019, in the event of a hung verdict, a 2004-like situation, would you work with the Congress again?
It is not very productive to think of the 2004 situation. First of all, we don’t expect the CPM to have the electoral success of 2004. The Left won 18 out of the 20 seats in Kerala in 2004. That itself was an exception. So we can’t mechanically replicate what is going to happen. We can’t say what is going to be verdict of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. We will cross the bridge when it comes. The issue is at that time, yes, one situation is similar. Like in 2004, in 2019 the crucial question will be whether we will have a secular government at the Centre. We will keep that in mind when we work our approach in the post-election situation, if such a situation arises.
On regional parties, you have said no national-level alliance with them
Earlier, we were trying to bring together many regional parties for what we called a third alternative, popularly called third front… From our experience, we have realised this is not feasible, because the role and character of the regional parties have changed over a period…. Many of these parties are state-based… The question of defeating the BJP being the main aim of all of us… we will decide which regional party will be playing a role and also depending on that it won’t harm our interests by having some understanding with them. Everybody talks about Congress. But in many states, it is the regional parties which will play an important role in the fight against the BJP. In UP, is it the Congress which is going to be the decisive force against the BJP? It is either the SP or the BSP. So in each state it differs.
Suppose the CPM enters into an alliance with the SP in UP, and the SP ties up with the Congress?
For us, that is not an important issue. Anybody who wants to see the BJP defeated… they should get the BSP and the SP to fight together. That will make an impact, not the CPM aligning with anybody. The real thing is gathering the anti-BJP forces in the electoral battle.
Will you play a role in bringing SP and BSP together?
Such ambitious tasks are beyond our capabilities. It doesn’t work that way.
Is there any chance of a national alliance taking shape?
I think there is no serious all-India alliance going to come. State based, yes, there will be state-based alignments against the BJP.
There is division in the politburo. At the party congress, how will this play out?
It is not a division. In our party, on political issues, there can be differing opinions. There was a politburo draft and there was one minority draft. On a particular issue, on a current tactic… but current tactics are not fundamental for us. That [election tactics] are the least important for us… But yes, political-tactical line, since it is going to guide our party’s work and direction for the next three years… that is a serious issue.
But there is a Bengal line and a Kerala line?
I am afraid it is highly exaggerated, this division. At the level of the central committee and the politburo, people have an understanding which is for the party as a whole. Nobody represents only one segment of the party.
There is no such regional division in the central committee.
Even in the politburo, when there was a 11-5 vote, all the five were from Bengal.
We already had a discussion. Everybody knows that in the assembly elections last time, our state committee and the party wanted to pursue a particular electoral understanding, which was not approved by the central committee.
Yes, on such issues sometimes there are different opinions. But this is not some division in the party. The party congress will end all divisions on this matter. We have full inner-party democracy. We put our views vigorously, frankly, freely and then when the decision is taken we implement it.
Why is Bengal demanding an understanding with the Congress?
Because the situation in Bengal is not a normal situation. You have a ruling party there which believes suppressing the CPM is the sine qua non for their existence. In that situation, we have to counter that.
Much is said about your differences with general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
We are used to being characterised or picturised as in other parties. In the old days, they used to say Sundarayya versus so and so. Because they can only see things in terms of personality and individual… For us, it is not very important. What is important is the political issues that we debate and discuss.
Will there be a change in leadership, general secretary, at the next party congress?
That is something we don’t discuss at all now. At the time of the party congress, we will discuss the entire thing of leadership. It will be a new central committee, a new politburo, then the general secretary. It will be discussed only after the political resolution and the political organisational report are adopted.
Are you confident of retaining Tripura?
We are confident of winning and coming back to forming the eighth Left Front government. There will be a larger political message out of the Tripura elections. This will be the first time in a state where there will be a fight between the Left and the BJP as direct contestants. The so-called BJP ascendant everywhere will meet its match in Tripura. We will be able to vanquish them.