Is the idea of a grand alliance of opposition parties gaining traction?
In today’s situation, a nationwide pre-poll alliance bears no relevance. A party or political formation may be very strong in one state but weak or non-existent in another. The alliance picture will be clear only after the elections. One thing is obvious: that all (opposition parties) are against the BJP. These forces could emerge victorious in different states, mustering the requisite, aggregate strength to oust the BJP and RSS from power.
But the Left is not a part of many state-level alliances. It almost seems you have been left out of the grand alliance.
Even in the past, the Left played a role in the formation of non-BJP, non-Congress governments at the Centre. The Left (CPM) was never a part of these governments but lent support from outside… We were in a position to influence the policies of the
UPA-I and so their hands were tied when it came to anti-poor policies. The Congress could therefore return to power… and I don’t wish to dwell on what followed (the scandals of the UPA-II).
The Left is not a major electoral force in many states; in some, we are practically not there. Except in two-three states where the Congress is pitted against the BJP, it is not in a position to defeat the BJP alone. Our strategy for 2019 is clear: we will use our strength to contribute to the defeat of the BJP. In states like Kerala where we are strong, we will keep the BJP at bay and in states where we are hardly a big force, we will help those secular formations best poised to defeat the BJP.
The Left numbers are on the decline. What efforts are on to check this?
The Left forces have a strong and growing presence in universities, youth organisations, and among trade unions and farmer organisations… This strength is bound to reflect in the parliamentary arena.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ridiculed the Opposition alliance as mahamilavat (grand adulteration).
The notion that such formations can’t hold together for long is wrong. In the past, coalition governments (without a major party like the BJP or the Congress as the glue) could not survive a full term simply because the Congress torpedoed them. There is every possibility of another such experiment lasting the full term and going along smoothly.
How do you see the Modi government, including on cooperative federalism?
Large sections of the people are suffering as only a handful are benefiting from its policies. All democratic processes have been subverted and constitutional institutions undermined. The spirit of cooperative federalism is not being upheld and there is concentration of power in the Centre. Parliament has been treated with contempt. The biggest danger is they are making all efforts to divide people on communal lines, which could jeopardise the very existence of the nation.
Should the Congress not be taken along in the fight against the BJP?
The Congress needs to consolidate its secular credentials. Its soft Hindutva approach would only help the BJP. However, one can’t still dismiss the Congress as non-secular.
Your government recently held its first investor meeting, ASCEND 2019. Hasn’t it come a bit late in the day?
We have taken several steps to facilitate investments and improve ease of doing business… Over 100 reforms have been carried out. The message has gone to all stakeholders including the bureaucracy that entrepreneurs must be valued. There is a need to find more employment for youth here itself.
India Inc still doesn’t view Kerala as an investment hotspot.
Over the last few decades, apart from other factors, direct or tacit prodding by the Centre has influenced Indian corporate groups’ decisions on project sites… Politics cannot be separated from it. We are not getting due share of public investments either… In case of central transfers, the criteria being evolved militate against us; we are sort of penalised for our success in many areas.
Kerala’s economic growth is below potential, the GST hasn’t bolstered its tax revenue buoyancy, and non-development expenditure remains high.
It is true that the state’s economy and fiscal situation are not exactly in a very good shape. We are making efforts… There are signs of investments picking up.