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No Pre-poll Alliance with Congress, But Open to Tie-up in States to Keep BJP Out: Sitaram Yechury

In an exclusive interview to News 18, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said that appropriate electoral tactics will be adopted to pool the maximum anti-BJP votes.

Achyuth Punnekat | News18.com

Updated:April 27, 2018, 4:49 PM IST
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No Pre-poll Alliance with Congress, But Open to Tie-up in States to Keep BJP Out: Sitaram Yechury
Sitaram Yechury addresses CPI(M)'s 22nd Congress in Hyderabad.
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Fresh from the victory of his line of 'co-operation with the Congress' at the party conclave in Hyderabad last week, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says that appropriate electoral tactics will be adopted to pool the maximum anti-BJP votes. News18's Achyuth Punnekat caught up with the Left leader at the quaint government guest house in Thiruvananthapuram, where he was staying next door to P Chidambaram. But as he was at pains to point out, good neighbours also need good fences and an 'understanding' with Congress does not mean an alliance with them.

QUESTION: Are we likely to see the formation of a mahagatbandhan of opposition parties ahead of 2019 elections?
ANSWER: The biggest challenge for the party is to create momentum for a policy-based alternative to what is happening to the country. There are multi-fold assaults being mounted by the current RSS-backed BJP government. That we have decided will have to be built on the basis of a powerful peoples' struggle. But when elections come in, there we have said that we will adopt appropriate electoral tactics to pool the maximum anti-BJP votes...without having any political alliance with the Congress. Any All-India formation can happen only post-elections. Because region specificity in India is so strong, as it naturally should be considering the diversity of this country. Given that, it will have to be region-specific understandings. They will coalesce together subsequently. There is an entire discussion that is going on about, "will you go with this party or that party?" But there is nothing called monolithic politics in India.

Take UP for instance, where SP and BSP have gotten together and managed to defeat the BJP in the by-election. Take Bihar as another instance. Take the whole of South, minus Karnataka… Or Odisha. The Congress is not player at all. So this hoo-ha that’s been created (is unnecessary). It all depends, like it always has been in our country, at the regional levels. There are various regional dominant players. And then subsequently, post-election, let's see. Because remember, United Front was formed post-election in 1996. The UPA was formed post-election in 2004. So never, has any formation so-to-speak occurred before election in our country. And it can't, given our diversity.

Q: In 2002, your party adopted a resolution saying you must work together with secular parties (including the Congress) to defeat the main enemy, the BJP. You've had alliances with the Congress in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. So do you think this entire controversy over the understanding with the Congress had more to do with a section of the party questioning your leadership, rather than it being an ideological debate?
A:In 2002 as well, we had decided against entering into any alliance or front with the Congress. And that has always been the case. Even in the Bengal and Tamil Nadu examples that you have given. The only place where there was an aberration was in Andhra in 2004, which was subsequently corrected. It was never a question of an alliance or a front. In fact, I always maintain that even though my party does not believe in intellectual property rights, the CPI (M) holds the intellectual trademark to the concept of 'outside support'. That has been our patent. The question is what sort of adjustments are possible? Suppose we have an alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu. If the DMK has an alliance with the Congress, then does that preclude our understanding with the DMK? Now we are clear that no it does not. So that is what is meant, saying that it doesn't close all doors.

Q: So what is the party going to do in Karnataka?
A: In Karnataka, we have already announced our position and it has been announced that we are fighting in a limited number of seats. In the other seats where there is a Left candidate, we will support them. Where there is no Left candidate, we have given the call to defeat the BJP. It could be the Congress or the Janata Dal (Secular), depending on each constituency we will back whoever can beat the BJP. The objective is the keep the BJP out of power. That, I think, is the essence of the current political situation.

Q: In Kerala, the BJP is a growing force and have a fighting chance in many pockets. Especially in Chengannur, where by-elections are coming up. If, in a state like Kerala, you are faced with the prospects of a strong BJP candidate, will you join hands with the Congress to ensure that the secular vote is not split?
A: No way. Politics is not arithmetic. Two and two need not make up four in politics. I am not such a political novice to accept such things as the Left and the Congress having a common candidate, and leave the opposition space wide open for the BJP. Nobody is going to be so foolish. The point is that it is not us… The growth of the BJP in Kerala is due to the UDF vote being shifted to them. Anti-Communist voters in Kerala, which is substantial section, are seeing the BJP as more effective than the Congress. The Congress base is shifting to the BJP giving it the ascendancy curve. We are opposing that. I am sure that in Chengannur also, the BJP will not come close to winning.
| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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