The minority draft of the political resolution you presented at the central committee was defeated. Why did you advocate such a line?
In our party, we have the finest traditions of inner-party democracy. And in that every time, most of the time, we have different opinions. The objective is to defeat the BJP and its communal agenda. How to do it? There have been different approaches. The question is how to achieve that objective. There there were two opinions and the majority opinion will now go to the party congress [in April].
But it is being viewed in binary terms, pro-Congress and anti-Congress.
All this name-calling, binary and narrative, is completely unreal and incorrect. If you charge me [as being] pro-Congress, I can counter-charge the others as being pro-BJP. I am neither pro-Congress nor BJP, nor anywhere. I am only pro-India and Indian people. Now to achieve that objective, how do we proceed? So this labelling and name-calling, that narrative has to be broken through… The question is on the merit of the it, the majority of the central committee decided on a line which will now go to the party congress as the central’s committee’s draft resolution… Every party member has the right to move amendments. And all those amendments would be answered. In the party congress, all delegates can move amendments. Those will have to be taken up, discussed and decided upon.
So, the draft can be changed?
That is the highest decision-making body. I cannot say anything on whether it will be changed or not changed.
When you look at both drafts… the only difference seems to be on the word “understanding.” Your draft did not rule out any understanding with the Congress. Why didn’t you include “understanding” when you are saying no front or alliance with the Congress?
The point is, with no ruling class party will we enter into any front or alliance. What is our objective? To give a class alternative to the present ruling classes. So how can we join in a front with the present ruling classes?… That is all stated, that in order to achieve this objective of defeating the RSS-BJP, we will pool the maximum number of secular votes without entering into electoral alliance or political front.
But there can be understanding?
That, according to me, was not an issue of dispute. Perspective is what I had given.
You are now in the company of P Sundarayya and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, whose lines were rejected when they were general secretaries.
Comrade Sundarayya resigned on the question of attitude towards the JP movement. The question of going with the communal forces, which he was characterising as fascistic forces… and he was against that. That was in 1975. The issue was finally clinched only in our party congress in 1978. So the point is, it is not as though something he suggested and immediately something happened. Comrade Surjeet as general secretary twice in the central committee… rejected his proposal of making Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister… The party congress also rejected. But he then remained the general secretary for seven years after that. These are not parallels.
Did you offer to resign? There are contrary views emerging from your own party.
I had told the politburo that is untenable for me to continue in this situation. The politburo unanimously said there is no question. Because it will give an impression of being… party will be divided. Especially since Tripura elections are round the corner, they said I should continue. In the central committee, I reported what I said in the politburo. In the CC also the unanimous view was that I should continue. Therefore in the press conference I said I am here as a general secretary because my central committee and politburo want me to.
How will this affect your standing in the party?
Nobody can say whose standing is what until the party congress finally decides. It is actually ridiculous to presume that somebody has a standing and somebody does not have a standing. The party congress and all of us will collectively decide on what is going to be our various leading bodies…
Do you think behind all this, there are personal issues camouflaged as different approaches?
All I can say is that… I can only answer for myself. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing personal about these matters. This is an issue of a policy direction.
There is a perception that you are down but not out after the central committee vote?
I am what I am. I am still there as what I am. Neither down, nor out.
Do you think there is a need for a united front now? There were some divergence of views in your party on characterising this government earlier.
This is also mechanically understood. What is fascism? Fascism is the replacement of one form of rule, a parliamentary democracy, by an open terroristic dictatorship. That jettisoning of Parliament in India has not yet happened. It is a different matter it is being undermined; it may well lead up to that. So the question right now is to stop it from leading up to that. It is not a technical discussion on whether it is fascism or not fascism. The point is to stop this movement which we believe is moving towards undermining the constitutional authorities…undermining the democratic rights of the people, attacking on various constitutional and statutory institutions, private armies ruling the roost…so unless you are able to stop this march or degeneration…when rule of law is continuously being assaulted… we can neither safeguard the republic or the rights of the minorities or the unity of the exploited sections which we want to advance through struggles. It is not a question of semantics or terminology.
Do you think there is a need for an united front?
That united front is not on the basis of saying to stop fascism. Today, it is not that stage yet. What we are saying there should be a policy alternative put before the people. And the people should be rallied on the basis of that policy alternative. The country doesn’t need netas, the country needs neeti.
The CPM has not managed to expand despite constantly talking about the need to increase its strength and expanding its independent activities.
When I became the general secretary, we had nine members in the Lok Sabha plus two independents supported by us and nine in the Rajya Sabha…. We took some relevant decisions in the party plenum. It is too short a time for that translate onto the ground. We decided that in order to expand the party, we have to consciously register one fact. The class struggle in India stands on two feet — economic exploitation and social oppression… During the last two years, the forging of unity in struggles with Dalit movements has vastly grown. Red flag, blue flag… Lal salaam, Jai Bheem… these are the slogans coming up. That is a forward movement. On the question of attack on intellectuals and intolerance… among the intellectuals the party has been very very active and at the forefront. And all the other issues like attacks on Muslims and Dalits by gau rakshak samitis… moral policing etc… the party was in the forefront. The kisan struggles, our kisan sabha has been playing a leading role….
But these interventions have not translated into electoral benefits?
That is correct. That I agree. The translation of struggles into electoral benefits, that is not an automatic translation. There are various other factors. One is caste-based political mobilisation… the other one is distortion in the entire electoral process. Look at the naked display of money power… These are things that inhibit this conversion of popular struggles and agitations into electoral figures. That will take a little time. We are working on it.
When the party is electorally at its lowest ebb, can the party afford such schisms?
The point is how does the party go forward… And in a healthy inner-party democracy, difference of opinion can only be settled through a healthy debate and on the basis of a decision taken by the majority which should be abided by everybody in the party. That is what is happening.
If the party congress accepts the central committee resolution… will the CPM be able to play any role (like in 2004, supporting the Congress) in the event of a fractured verdict in 2019?
That also the party congress will decide.
The Congress seems not very keen on supporting or bringing any motion to impeach the Chief Justice of India.
That is up to them to decide.
If the Congress does not support, will the CPM and the Left still talk to other parties and go ahead?
The Left has conveyed its feelings. We have started the process of consultation. It is not something which we have decided and is going ahead.
Obviously other parties will have to come on board. All of us want the judiciary to settle it by themselves. If they cannot do it, then the responsibility of the other two organs of our democracy – the executive and the legislature – to work together to strengthen our democratic order. How can we do that? The legislature has only option constitutionally. Impeachment motion moving means not that he is going to be impeached immediately the next day. A committee will be set up to inquire into it.
That is what is required. If in that inquiry something has to be set right, then it should be set right. The judges have said in the process of allocation of cases…there are many irregularities. We don’t know. Nobody knows where there are irregularities or no irregularities. If there are irregularities, why those occurred… any reason for that… that needs to be corrected. The integrity and the independence of the judiciary is non-negotiable.