Fresh from his victory at the CPI(M) party congress in Hyderabad, where he was re-elected for a second term as general secretary, Sitaram Yechury says the removal of two words — “no understanding”, from the official draft political resolution — opens the door for a policy-based support to a non-BJP government, which may include the Congress, after the 2019 elections. In an interview to Sreeparna Chakrabarty, he says the Congress doesn’t need to take a leadership role in the Opposition at the national level as of now as everything will depend on the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
At the Party Congress in Hyderabad, the words “no understanding” with Congress were removed. How does it affect the political scenario as far as CPI(M) is concerned?
Yes, these two words were removed, and it changes the picture in two ways. First, as far as post-poll arrangement is concerned, there is an absolute clarity now that we will extend issue-based support to the non-BJP government. “No understanding” clause left that ambiguity whether we will be able to support if the Congress is there. There is no ambiguity now.
Second, in the pre-poll scene, suppose we are going ahead with a particular regional formation, which has an alliance with the Congress — looking at the scenarios of the past, in Tamil Nadu we may support the AIADMK or the DMK depending on who is not going with the BJP — and if that particular party is already in an alliance with the Congress the “no understanding” clause could create a problem for us. When we are making electoral adjustments in the seats we fight, “no understanding” means no consultation.
So this opens the door for seat adjustments with Congress?
Though at present this is all speculation, various possibilities exist. There can be mutual “no contest” where there would not be any joint campaigning, no entering into an alliance, say, for two-three seats we contest, that is one possibility. I am not saying though that this will happen. This is just a possibility.
Only one year is left for 2019 polls. Where does the Opposition stand?
There is a mistaken discourse that is taking place that coming together of all the Opposition parties is the answer. The reality is that elections are a summation of specifics. It is not an electoral monolith for India as a whole. Different political parties have different degrees of influences in different parts of the country. It is the actual objective of coming together of all these forces that defines the index of the Opposition unity in India and that is region-specific not country-specific. So the general discourse in the country, which says whether all the Opposition parties will come together or not, is a meaningless concept in India.
Take, for example, Uttar Pradesh, if the SP-BSP come together then neither the Congress, nor the Left are of much consequence. In Bihar, if the RJD and the Yadav-Muslim combination works, the other parties are inconsequential.
What is happening is the coming together of various parties at various regional levels. The beginning of that you have seen in the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent by-election results, as well as in Bihar.
But this is what regional satraps like Mamata Banerji and Chandrababu Naidu are saying. They talk of a Federal Front.
That’s immmaterial... This is the Indian reality. You look at our own history. I am not going back to the time of Janata Party or V.P. Singh government.
Take from 1996, the United Front was formed after the elections. The Vajpayee government was sworn in, it worked for 13 days and that government was defeated on the floor of the House. Then the United Front came after the formation of a Common Minimum Programme (CPM). The formation of the United Front itself was post-election. In 2004, the UPA was formed post-election. Again in the UPA, on the basis of the CMP, we extended our support. Our support is always policy-based.
So the Congress doesn’t need to take a leadership role at the national level?
Not now. It will depend on which party emerges as the largest party after the results. The Congress lost the election in 1996, and had to support from outside. In 2004, the Congress was the single largest party that could form the government. It all depended on the numbers. So who will become the leader will depend on the numbers and the people’s support they receive.
Where is the CPI(M) in this scheme of things?
The CPI(M) is clear that this RSS-BJP government has to be ousted. That was the main call of our party congress. We have said we will not enter into any political alliance with the Congress. That has been our historical truth. We were neither part of the United Front government nor the UPA government. We do not believe in intellectual property rights, but if there is one, then we have a trademark for outside support. So the question of entering into alliance doesn’t arise. At the time of elections, appropriate electoral tactics would be worked out to maximise anti-BJP votes.
For example, in Karnataka, we are fighting 18-19 seats. In the rest of the seats, where the Left candidate is there, we will support it, where a Left candidate is not there we will support the party that has given a call to defeat the BJP. It could be JD(S) or Congress. We will work out our tactics. We firmly believe that this government has to go.
The CPI(M)’s scheme of things goes much beyond elections. We are determined to further strengthen our party and our political intervention capacity. Our objective is to consolidate CPI(M) as a revolutionary party with a pan-Indian mass influence. We will work for strengthening the unity of Left forces and forge a unity of Left and democratic forces to offer a policy alternative to the people. This will be done through unleashing national popular struggles.