Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary, looks quite overwhelmed by the affection and good words received from his co-members of the Upper House as he closes an exemplary innings in the Rajya Sabha. On the last day of the Monsoon Session, Mr Yechury spoke with Sanjay Basak and Sreeparna Chakrabarty about how “competitive communalism” between the BJP and the Trinamul Congress was squeezing out the Left in West Bengal, the propaganada against the CPI(M)-led government in Kerala and the future of Opposition unity against the Narendra Modi-led BJP.
What is your opinion about the attempts at Opposition unity? Will your party go with the Congress to stop the BJP juggernaut?
At our party congress it was decided that there would be no electoral understanding or an alliance with the Congress. We are working with non-Congress secular social movements and secular parties and certain popular struggles. We shall unite and try and build independent strength of our parties through our Left struggles and within non-Congress secular parties along with other people’s movements. We will see whether there can be any alliance with the Congress; we are having a party congress in 2018 and they will work out an alliance for the next three years.
As far as the Opposition unity is being talked about, we have already said that this was not the way by which an offensive against the current BJP government could be built. The alternative can be built only through people’s struggles. We are focusing on two major issues — privatisation and the very significant cuts in people’s welfare projects like MGNREGA, LPG subsidy cut or agrarian distress. These two issues will build popular movements.
This will give rise to a broader forum of non-political parties which will include Left parties plus mass organisations and people organisations. Our firm understanding is that only by sharpening and strengthening people struggles an electoral understating can come across.
The BJP made a grand show in Uttar Pradesh.
In UP, BJP lost three per cent of votes and in Uttarakhand it lost 10 per cent. Also, it lost sitting governments in Goa and Punjab. The BJP has only perfected the art of losing elections but forming the government. That’s not an incredible victory. The main reason why it won in UP was division in the Opposition votes. A sharp ruthless communal polarisation accompanied by extremely scientific social engineering. Targeting all non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav dalits who were very ably aided by a very weak index of Opposition unity. If the SP, the BSP and the Congress had united, the BJP would have been left with only 90 seats.
What is the reason for the Left’s continuous decline in West Bengal?
It is not that we are not making any inroads; public activities that culminated in the Nabanna march were very heartening. There is sharpened competitive communalism between the Trinamul Congress and the BJP and that is why we say that they both are playing politics in tandem. The Trinamul minority communalism directly feeds BJP’s Hindutva communalism. These two feed each other and whenever this happens the Left gets squeezed out though temporarily. That’s why we say “Didi bhai-Modi bhai”.
Can you imagine schoolchildren coming out with weapons on Ram Navami. This a trend which the Left had kept under check for 40 years; it is reviving. One should remember that on August 15, 1947, Mahatma Gandhi was not in Delhi but in Noakhali, which was known for the worst communal riots. In the psyche of large number of Bengalis, all this remains but instead of suppressing that if you rake it up then you will have mayhem and that’s exactly what the Trinamul and the BJP are doing.
Do you think the Centre will target the Kerala government?
Whether in Kerala, Tripura where elections are due or West Bengal, the BJP sees in the Left, particularly CPI(M), a consistent ideological and organisational opposition. All other parties it can manage to break through intimidation, appeasement or the CBI. With the Left, the BJP knows it doesn’t work. In the recent RS polls in Gujarat, they bought Congress MLAs. They will try to weaken Kerala and Tripura and try to squeeze out the Left in West Bengal.
As far as Kerala is concerned, their own central home department data says that in the first two years, more CPI(M) people were murdered as compared to the RSS. The violence, particularly in northern Kerala goes back to many years that is because the RSS-BJP standard technique of expanding their social and political presence is by creating violence. In northern Kerala, there is substantial Muslim population which acts as a fertile ground.
This time around, the violence started the day results were announced for Assembly elections. Many CPI(M) workers died. The idea is to create a situation where you say there is a breakdown of law and order and then destabilise the government. The BJP in Kerala is plagued by corruption charges so the violence is to divert attention.Our government took the initiative. Our state secretary called a meeting of political parties and the chief minister called a meeting of political parties.
What do you think is the future of the Congress?
The Congress has to decide as to why it is going down. The economic policies it pursued, the neo-liberal policies, burdened the public and the consequent discontent only favoured the communal forces. This is how the communal forces entered the scene in 2014.
What do you have to say about corruption charges against many Opposition leaders?
What about the Vyapam case, the Panama papers, Sahara Birla diaries where the PM is directly named? It is selective pursuit. Earlier, we used to say that CBI is Congress Bureau of Investigation. Now it is Communal Bureau of Investigation.
Was the refusal of a third Rajya Sabha term to you a blunder?
When I became the general secretary I had proposed to focus on party work. Then the central committee felt that it would be gifting the seat to Trinamul. After that the situation in West Bengal and the people suggested that the one seat in Bengal can be won by us with the support of the Congress. However, we are not going to go with the Congress, so Congress had said that if Sitaram was the sixth candidate then it would not contest. The Politburo said that it was against party line. The central committtee said circumstances have changed and it led to voting and on that basis they said that Sitaram should not go.