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If Left Contested More in Bihar, With This Strike Rate There Would Have Been Mahagathbandhan Govt: Sitaram Yechury

File photo of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

File photo of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

In an interview with CNN-News18, Yechury explained what the results would mean for the West Bengal elections next year, alliances with the Congress and how seats can be better shared among allies to ensure an even distribution.

Rupashree Nanda

With the three Left parties bagging 16 of the 29 seats from where they contested in Bihar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has warned naysayers against writing them off, saying had they been given more seats, they would have notched up higher numbers in the elections. In an interview with CNN-News18, Yechury explained what the results would mean for the West Bengal elections next year, alliances with the Congress and how seats can be better shared among allies to ensure an even distribution.

Edited excerpts:

Bihar results were very good for the Left parties, especially when you talk about the strike rate. What impact does it have on Bengal elections and what does it mean for the Left going from here?

It means it is a very positive thing for the Left. Out of 29 seats we contested, winning 16 is a very, very, very positive strike rate. And that shows not just the relevance but the confidence that the people of Bihar showed in the red flag. Because all these years, on all issues directly concerned with their livelihoods, it was this red flag struggling for them. And the fact this was combined with the Mahagathbandhan gave also the Mahagathbandhan a certain credibility in terms of the ability to raise people's issues. And the people's response to the Left candidates was precisely on the basis of confidence they have that these issues will now be taken up in the Assembly, forcing the government of the day to act.

So I think this also led to a combination of the factors saying that social justice and economic justice are inseparable. And that is a very, very significant political development in Bihar for the last three decades or so. That is a very big contribution made by the Left. As far as the impact it has in the rest of the country, it will be similar. The need for the Left, to not merely articulate but to pressurize respective governments, wherever they are, to act in favour of the working people, the vast majority of our country and that is the confidence with which people are responding to us, which is very healthy.

Talking specifically about Bengal because that is the next big election you will face, where you have an alliance with the Congress. What lessons does Bihar hold for your battle in Bengal?

The lesson Bihar holds is that this sort of unity of people, of political forces in terms of not diving their votes between themselves to benefit our primary objective of defeating the BJP. Both in the interest of India, to safeguard our Constitution and also to safeguard the interests of those respective states.

So that is why particularly in Bengal, remember it is a border state and which had one of the most terrible communal repercussions at the time of Partition. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi had to go there, wanting to go to Noakhali saying this is the worst communal carnage that took place and he was not allowed to go there, forcing him into a hunger strike in Kolkata. So communal forces would like to exploit that background. And that is very dangerous not merely for Bengal but for the country. That has to be stopped.

In Bihar, one of the facts that has been commented upon is the dismal strike rate of the Congress. Perhaps had it not contested on as many as 70 seats and had the Left parties got more seats, the picture would have been different. What do you think?

I think it could be. That is what we have also been arguing. The Congress and the Left had contested about 100 seats, 99, if that was divided equally, I think by now he Mahagathbandhan government would be in place. Because what the BJP-led alliance has got is just three more MLAs than what is required to form a government. And that is why it is a very unstable situation. If the Left contested more, with this strike rate by now you would have a Mahagathbandhan government.

What do you think of the Congress's performance?

It is very unfortunate. This has always happened and what we have been urging. And I particularly have been very very insistent - that seat-sharing cannot be done on the basis of numerical considerations. Parties think of how many seats will you give me. It is not that. And the Left also negotiated with the RJD. We went seat by seat to see where is your strength and on that basis these seats were contested. That is what should be done. And that is why I urge the Congress and others that whenever seat-sharing is done, go by concrete ground realities, concrete realities constituency-wise. Not by some wholesale numbers, but go by concrete realities and then decide whichever party has a stronger chance of winning that seat should contest. That should be the basis.

Dipankar Bhattacharya in an interview said he has not appreciated the CPIM's attitude towards Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and he has said the BJP is the main enemy there. How would you respond?

Of course, the BJP is the main enemy. Who disputes that? But his own unit in Bengal is also party to that understanding that in order to defeat the BJP we have to defeat the TMC. Because the BJP is gaining due to the very strong anti-incumbency against the TMC government. For all these years, it has been politics of violence. People by the thousands have been displaced from their areas. There are thousands against whom there are false cases, they are still in the jail and in custody. People want relief from all this. Apart from all the other economic pressures and the money making that is done. So in their desperation to get relief from such sort of a government, they are veering round to the BJP. And those who are opposed to the communal forces are veering round to the TMC. And this sort of bipolarization remains and that is what both want to sustain.

Now, if you try to unite with everyone, including the TMC, the BJP is the only one that will capture the entire anti-incumbency gains. So the objective of defeating the BJP is defeated by this sort of tactics. And the CPI(ML) unit in Bengal itself is absolutely party to it and cooperating with the Left front there.

A little more about the Congress -- why do you think the party is in such a poor shape and why did it perform so poorly in Bihar?

Well, first they will have to...

Would you as an ally look at them with caution?

It is not looking at them. I would appeal to them. Go seat by seat and decide. Don't go by the logic of saying how many numbers. That does not help electorally. Go seat by seat and then let us decide.

Allies, would they not be more wary of the Congress now?

If the methodology I am suggesting is followed, nobody would be wary about anybody.

The Congress tries to play the big brother?

That is my point - go by concrete reality on the ground in each constituency and then decide. Not by some wholesale trading of saying, "these many numbers". That is the approach to be adopted.

PM Narendra Modi will inaugurate a Vivekananda statue in JNU today - a Left bastion. And Vivekanada is someone who is very much associated with the right-wing and right politics. What signal does this send? What does it mean for students in JNU?

First of all, Vivekananda has been misappropriated by the right. Having a statue, they exist in many places and nobody is objecting to that. The point is why in JNU, why is the PM going? That is where the whole catch is. They want to try and polarize this issue between the right and the left. If you really respect Vivekananda, if you really think he should be honored with a statue, please follow what he said. Vivekanada said that in his mind the future of India is a Vedantic mind and Islamic body. It is this unity that is the future and strength of India. Is the honorable PM following that?


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