The Indian Express speaks to leaders of four parties which are touched by the latest political storm.
Two years ago, the Opposition celebrated the victory of the Grand Alliance. Now it lies in tatters.
The moment Nitish Kumar announced support for the BJP in the presidential elections…I had said Nitish was being thought of as an alternative to the BJP in the 2019 elections, but with the sort of step that he has taken, that can no longer happen. At that time, one did not know he will go this far to form a coalition government with the BJP. After all, he was with the BJP for 17 years. He was with the BJP throught the communal holocaust in Gujarat. He may have his reasons…the fact is that this is very bad for the country.
Were you surprised? You read his mind in the Presidential elections?
I did. I did not think it will go this far. For whatever reasons, this is not a good development for the country.
You and the opposition have been trying to build up a counter narrative to the BJP and PM Narendra Modi. And he was key to that efforts. How big a blow is his exit?
It may be a very temporary setback. But remember, even when Nitish was with the BJP, a counter narrative was established in the country and the Vajpayee government was overthrown by the people. It may happen again. That is what we are trying. It will happen. The counter narrative will emerge.
Nitish has in the past spoken about the need for opposition unity. You were at P Chidambaram’s book release in February when he pointed to Rahul Gandhi and said he should set the agenda and not let the BJP do it. That the opposition was not able to set the agenda was one of his grievances. Do you agree that the Congress as the biggest opposition party was not taking the initiative?
That is no excuse to go and join the BJP. It is not that the Congress will create the counter narrative. The counter narrative has to be created through people’s struggles. That is the only way. That is what the Left is trying to do. The concrete issue today is the unrest among peasantry. Where are they (JDU) in that struggle? A counter narrative cannot emerge with all the leaders sitting together in Delhi. It has be built through people’s struggles.
Is that happening?
What do you say about the entire peasant movement? That is how counter narratives begin. The narrative against Indira Gandhi began on an issue of corruption…the Navnirman movement in Gujarat and then it went on to the total revolution call by JP in Bihar…
How can you blame Nitish when the CPM itself is not willing to have a truck with the Congress even for a single Rajya Sabha seat?
Counter narrative is not political arithmetic, it is through a people’s alternative. Only that is sustainable. People’s alternative comes through people’s struggles, not by seats in Parliament.
At least Nitish tried. For two years, he shed his ego and joined hands with Lalu Prasad. The Left will not do that with the Trinamool Congress.
What did he try? He became the Chief Minister. It is not a great sacrifice. He did that to lead the state of Bihar. That was the actual reason why he shed his inhibitions, his earlier positions and shook hands with the RJD. As for Trinamool, its politics is entirely aimed at destroying the Left through violence and terror against our cadre. And Trinamool is actually helping the BJP in terms of the competitive communalism there. The counter narrative has to be against that communal polarisation.
Do you think the Tejashwi issue was an alibi?
Many of these are sub-judice issues, let the courts decide. But the point is going back to the BJP, which he did. But that is a temporary setback and will not stop the counter narrative from emerging.
Rahul Gandhi has said that he knew for 3-4 months that Nitish was planning this? What about you?
The first indication we got was during the Presidential election. Earlier, when he supported the demonetisation…that we thought at the time of the Chidambaram book release he sort of corrected it.