In an exclusive interview, CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury explained the importance of the Left front in these State elections, while pointing out the apathy of the Congress on their role.
Q: Elections in the five states have been declared and they are crucial for the Left parties, especially in Kerala and West Bengal. What are your initial thoughts?Sitaram Yechury: Well in Kerala, the anti-incumbency factor does not exist. In fact, there is a wave in favor of the LDF, of the CPIM-led LDF, and that wave was visible in in the recently-held local body elections, where the LDF swept these elections. So, I think that is a very clear indication that the work done by the government in Kerala in the last five years has got a very wide appreciation and support from the people. So the challenge there is the BJP trying to make inroads. We have always been firm and that the BJP also knows that it is the CPIM and the CPIM-led LDF that is the biggest adversary and stumbling block for all its advances and it is trying its best to polarise the society.
Unfortunately, the Congress led UDF is trying to play in tandem with them. So both will be defeated and that, I think, is the general mood.
Q: Sir, are you saying that in Kerala BJP is trying to make inroads and that BJP is the challenge and the Congress is not the challenge over there? If you look at history, after the left party, it is always the Congress party which has formed the government over there.Sitaram Yechury: Of course, it is. It has always been the LDF vs the UDF, and it will be like that. There is no doubt about it. What the BJP is trying to do is that it is trying to erode the UDF votes, the Congress votes, for it to make some advances. Now, that is up to the UDF.
The Congress-led UDF, instead of combating it frontally, actually playing in tandem with the BJP. It is their politics, what they want to do. But that is something that is not being accepted by the people of Kerala. It is a bipolar election between the LDF and UDF as always in Kerala.
Q: What about West Bengal, Sir? How seriously do you see the threat of the BJP over there?Sitaram Yechury: BJP threat is exaggerated. Nevertheless it is the most dangerous threat. The primary task, as far as we are concerned, is to stop the BJP from advancing any further. And for that, it is essential also for the Trinamool Congress is also defeated. Because what the BJP is gaining from, which was evident during the Lok Sabha elections, what it is gaining from is the very very deep anti-incumbency that the Trinamool Congress government suffers from. This anti Trinamool Congress feeling has helped the BJP in the past when there was no other alternative. But this time a viable alternative of the Left with the Congress and the other forces coming into electoral adjustments, seat adjustments, that alternative has emerged. That is going to be the pole around which the decision of what will be the actual verdict will come is crucially dependent upon. So, to defeat the BJP, it is essential to defeat the TMC also. And that is the call that we are giving — that is for a left democratic secular alternative for Bengal.
Q: How serious is the alternative you are providing? What are the challenges to this alternative? How do you think people are going to take this seriously? What is the face of the leadership?Sitaram Yechury: What is the face leadership? This is parliamentary democracy remember. And willy-nilly, the media is also cooperating with the mainstream governmental agenda of the BJP government of converting this into a presidential form. The face will emerge. There is no lack of faces. The faces are all there. The point is BJP is trying its best to communally polarise. And that is the only weapon they have. The people’s issues, the people’s woes, the miseries of the people that they have imposed, that they want to sidetrack by sharpening communal polarisation. That is something that we are not going to allow. The Left and this left democratic secular alternative is not going to allow this.
Q: The seat sharing agreement is still not final in Bengal, even that of the Congress and the Left?Sitaram Yechury: It is more or less final. They have announced the entire thing. Whatever adjustments are there, there are various other parties with whom these adjustments has to be done. So that fine-tuning is going on. But the understanding and the arrangements are in place. And the campaign is going on.
Q: Elections in five states — what is the potential here of the Opposition parties to throw up an alternative to the BJP in the next general eleçtions? Can the Opposition parties come together and give an alternative to the challenge of the BJP?Sitaram Yechury: Of course, they can and they will. Of these five states, in no state the BJP is having an easy run. In Tamil Nadu — no, in Kerala — no, in Bengal — no. In Asaam — it is very tenuous. So where? In Puducherry, now they have again done what they are masters at, at destroying democracy and destroying the electoral democracy in our country. They have once again done what they always used to. It’s completely anti-democratic act of imposing President’s rule there. So all this is going to weigh heavily on people and I think there is going to be a very big rejection of the BJP in these elections and that will pave the way for the alternative to emerge at the all-India level.
Q: What place will the Congress party have in that alternative?Sitaram Yechury: That is for them to decide. Alternative is emerging. And Congress, we always said is the most important opposition force in the country but they will have to take a call on what sort of a role they will play. And we want, and people of India want that this BJP government must be kept out of office and for that everybody must come together on the basis of a principled unity.
Q: Do you believe that the Congress has it in itself to play that role?Sitaram Yechury: That is up to them to decide. I can’t answer for them. That is up to them to decide. But people expect them to do it.