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Dipankar Bhattacharya interview: ‘What’s happening in UP is a warning signal. What if same things happen in Bihar? This made us think differently.’

CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya talks about his party joining the Grand Alliance, accuses the BJP of being anti-farmer, call the situation in UP super jungle raj, and defends RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s inexperience criticism

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: October 20, 2020 12:38:07 pm
CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya (Express Photo/Partha Paul)

Of late, the BJP has intensified its attack on the CPI(ML)?

In Bihar, the BJP has been jittery for the first time in the recent past. It is rattled with the alliance we have managed to stitch together. As for the allegations they are making against us about being anti-peasant, it is the BJP which is the biggest anti-peasant force. The peasants have all reason to be afraid of the BJP. They are terrorising peasants, workers and students.

How would you react to BJP’s allegation of CPI(ML) having provoked caste war in the past?

I do not know what they are referring to. We represent the working class. We are talking about farmers’ autonomy. Agriculture was the only sector that enjoyed autonomy. Now, even agriculture has corporate dominance. It is like a new company raj in India. The BJP is trying to favour some corporate houses by bringing new farming laws.

Why did the CPI(ML) join hands with RJD, a party with which it has never been in an alliance?

It is because we are passing through an unprecedented phase in Indian democracy. There is a dominant feeling in the country that non-BJP votes should not be divided. We should try to consolidate non-BJP votes as much as possible. It (the alliance with the RJD) is because Indian politics has never witnessed such a phase before. Even in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era, the NDA was different from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s era. What is happening in Uttar Pradesh is a warning signal. Rape accused are being protected. There is a collapse of the rule of law. What if the same things happen in Bihar? This is what made all of us think differently.

READ | A plus for BJP in the maths: JDU faces RJD on most seats

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) National Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya with politburo member Kavita Krishnan and other leaders releases the party’s manifesto for Bihar Assembly elections, in Patna (PTI)

But doesn’t your new alliance partner, the RJD, face similar charges?

That is insignificant. If RJD’s tenure could be called jungle raj, what we are witnessing is super jungle raj (in states like UP). Bihar awaits that. The BJP is not talking about issues of livelihood and employment, but invoking the past and raising bogeys.

Are you not targeting the BJP more than the man in the saddle, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar?

Nitish Kumar is the person in the saddle but it is the BJP that is running the show. Nitish betrayed the 2015 mandate. It was the defection of a government. We have anti-defection laws in place. Now we need to have an anti-‘Sarkar badal kanoon’ to stop the defection of a government. The BJP government at the Centre is the bigger danger. The CM has now become a part of the BJP’s use-and-throw politics. His utility in NDA now seems to be over. (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah spoke about making him CM even if the BJP gets more seats than JD(U). Nitish is kept on tenterhooks and is at mercy of the BJP… He is also facing people’s anger. He has failed in his promise to deliver good governance. The Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case (in 2018) proved that children are not safe even in government custody… I also heard the CM saying that Bihar did not progress much as it has no coastline. Nothing can be funnier than this. He should ask migrants if they have seen coastline in Gurugram or Ludhiana.

The Grand Alliance manifesto promises 10 lakh jobs, loan waivers to farmers and pay parity for teachers. Is it not populist?

There are too many job vacancies in the state. Are they not meant to be filled? The government should also create jobs. There have been talks of digital India. Shouldn’t there be a computer teacher in every school? Giving 10 lakh job is not promising the moon. Teachers are also not wrong in seeking pay parity for equal work. Even the Supreme Court had validated their demand. The CM could not get special status for Bihar. He could not get even central university status for Patna University.

READ | Prashant Kishor: He promised ‘Baat Bihar Ki’, is now making more noise for his silence

From left Left Front chairman Biman Bose and CPIM leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader AB Vardhan, and CPI (ML) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya in Kolkata in 2014. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

But where would the money come from? Bihar is still getting 76 per cent of its revenue from central taxes.

The Centre is talking about cooperative federalism. But it is coercive federalism. States are being denied their GST dues. If Bihar receives its dues from the Centre, money would automatically come in. It is about the approach of a government. I have rarely seen Nitish talking to a delegation of teachers or ASHA workers… It might well take some time for additional revenue generation. As for loan waivers to farmers, the Centre has also been talking about it. Even the Supreme Court has talked about a moratorium on small loans.

Some of your candidates are not comfortable withKanhaiya Kumar (former JNU students’ union president) campaigning for them because of his polarising image….

Kanhaiya was a student leader. He is a good orator. I believe he uses his skill to good effect. He has been campaigning for CPI candidates. He can surely campaign for us but there could be some issue of practical convenience. He could be concentrating on Begusarai (from where he fought the 2019 Lok Sabha polls). I do not know about reservations of our candidates against him.

Do you think the young Tejashwi Yadav inspires confidence as CM nominee of the Grand Alliance?

Tejashwi is the leader of the RJD, the biggest party in the Grand Alliance. As a consequence, he is naturally the leader of the Grand Alliance. It is said that he is inexperienced. But it was Nitish who made him his deputy five years ago (Tejashwi served as Bihar Deputy CM from 2015 to 2017). If he was good enough to work as deputy CM five years ago, why cannot he be CM five years later? Nitish, who is about to turn 70 years old, talks about youth representation… This is double standard.

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