Myth created by BJP about divided opposition. Where it matters, Oppn is united: Sitaram Yechury

Sitaram Yechury has been re-elected as CPI(M) General Secretary after intense inner-party struggle over the political line his party should take vis-a-vis Congress in the fight against BJP. He has managed to bring the party behind him though the issue of relationship with Congress remained a bone of contention for the past ten months. Yechury talks about present political situation.


India is entering into the election year. Where does the Opposition stands now?

A completely mistaken discourse is taking place now. Election in India is the summation of specifics and not an electoral monolith as a whole. Various parties have various degrees of influences in various parts of the country. It is region-specific and not country-specific. For example in Uttar Pradesh, if SP and BSP come together, neither the Congress nor the Left or anybody else is of much consequence. In Bihar, if the RJD and the Yadav-Muslim combination gel through various political processes, then others are not much of a consequence. In south India, apart from Karnataka, Congress is not the major player. So, what is happening is actually a degree of coming together of various parties at the regional level. You saw the beginning in UP and the bypoll results. You also saw the bypoll result in Bihar. Same is the case with Karnataka. It will be a summation of all these things that is happening at the regional level.

This brings to the question of talks about a Federal Front. How is it different from what you are saying?

We must understand the Indian reality. You look at our own history. I am not going back to the times of Janata Party or VP Singh government. In 1996, the United Front (UF) government was formed after the elections. After the fall of Vajpayee government in 13 days, the UF was formed on the basis of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) and the Left supported from outside. The Front itself was formed after the elections. In 2004, the UPA came into existence after the elections. There was no UPA before the elections. Again on the basis of a CMP, we extended our support from outside. So that is the Indian reality. It is not mere historical trend.

In such a scenario, who will take leadership role? What role does Congress have?

It depends on post election scenario. In 1996, Congress lost the elections and therefore, it supported the UF from outside. Congress could not enter the government through the back-door. They could not form the government because they did not get the majority. Therefore, others formed the government with Congress supporting from outside. In 2004, Congress was the single largest party among the Opposition. So they led the government. It all finally depends on the numbers. Who will be the leader? It depends on the numbers one gets from the support they receive from people.

Where does CPI(M) stand in these scheme of things?

The CPI(M) 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.

We are clear that the RSS-BJP government has to be ousted. That was the main call of our Party Congress. We have said that we shall not enter into any political alliance with Congress. That has been our historical truth. We were neither part of the UF or UPA governments. As I always said, we do not believe in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), but if at all there is IPR for outside support, it is CPI(M)’s. The question of entering into any alliance does not exist. At the time of elections, appropriate electoral tactics will be worked out to maximise the anti-BJP votes. For example, in Karnataka, we are contesting 19 seats. We will support the candidates of Left parties wherever they have put candidates. Where the Left is not contesting, the call the party has given is to defeat the BJP. It could be Congress, it could be JD(S), depending on the constituency. Then local party unit will decide. But the call is to defeat the BJP. That is one example. Similarly, we will work out our tactics.

How does that political picture change with the CPI(M) Party Congress now omitting a clause that said there should be no understanding with Congress party?

As far as post poll arrangements are concerned, there can be absolute clarity that we can extend an issue-based support to a non-BJP government. The ‘no understanding’ clause had left the ambiguity whether we will be able to support if the Congress is there. That is the take-away from the Party Congress. That was a bone of contention for 10 months. In the pre-poll scenario, suppose we are going with a regional formation, which has an alliance with Congress. I am looking at the possibility of a scenario of the past. I don’t know about the future. The past is Tamil Nadu. We supported DMK or AIADMK depending on who is supporting the BJP. Now that particular party is already in an alliance with Congress. So no understanding would have created problems. If we are making electoral adjustments with regional parties, the seats we fight, the seats Congress fights, there will be consultations. No understanding means no consultations. Now that ambiguity is also not there.

Does it mean the doors are open for seat adjustments with Congress in some states?

Now, it is all speculation. There are various possibilities. There could be, let’s say, mutual no-contest. There won’t be any joint campaigning. They won’t be entering into any alliance. But say, we contest two-three seats. They don’t put up a candidate. That is one possibility. I am not saying this will happen.

The Opposition move to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has been stone-walled. How do you see this situation?

One of the reasons why we are saying that this government should go is that the impunity with which they are destroying all Constitutional authorities and the mechanism that we had in place for seven decades. No confidence motion was not allowed to be tabled and discussed in Lok Sabha itself is a gross violation. For three weeks, it was not allowed. Now rejecting the impeachment motion outright, we think, is a gross irregularity. Because presiding officer of the House does not have the right to decide on the merits of an impeachment motion. That can be done only after an enquiry by a three-member committee as laid down by the Constitution. That committee will give report and if it says that the charges in the petition are untenable, then you reject it. But before going through that process and rejecting it is clearly not merely an overreach of authority but smacks of certain motives. Because once the enquiry committee is put in place and it begins the process, then morally the concerned judge does not have the right to be on a bench or hear a matter.

Only seven of the 18 Opposition parties have signed the impeachment motion? Doesn’t it show that the Opposition is divided?

Division in opposition is again a myth created by the BJP. Where it matters, the opposition is united. SP-BSP is united and it matters in UP. RJD did not sign. Will it stop the unity that is happening in Bihar against BJP. This is also sort of a post-truth society being created. Like creating non-issues as issues of unity and disunity of opposition.

The CPI(M)’s Political Organisation Report placed in Party Congress had said that Tripura results show that CPI(M)’s political, organisational and ideological fight against RSS is “inadequate”. How do you overcome this?

The point is that RSS cannot be defeated through elections alone. If that was the case, for 70 years after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, RSS should have been a completely marginalised force. They would not have survived and comeback with this sort of support. There has to be an ideological offensive against them. We also have to defeat their organisational methods. That can only be done through sharpening people mobilisation and struggles against what they espouse as well as their policies when they are in government. That is of first vital importance. Secondly, we need to actually counter their influence in various levels in which they spread their tentacles. They have a tentacle of organisations through which they continuously spread the virus of communalism. All that have to be combated at all levels.

Today, what is happening in our country. How else will you describe the child rapes and the gruesome murders? Nothing else can explain but the complete dehumanising of the Indian society. It is leading to such an irrational extent when even the lawyers are not taking up cases like it happened in Kathua. The ministers who are being sworn under oath of this very Constitution openly talk in terms of violation of the Constitution and protecting criminals. What is happening is ideological attack of irrationality on rationality, it is an ideological attack of unreason on reason. Now this has to be ideologically combated and defeated. Otherwise, mythology can be passed off as history. That is what they are doing. You and I may think what Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb said is bad. But when people are subjected to such onslaught, they start accepting it. They are seeking to replace the syncretic Indian history with Hindu mythology, replace the rich pluralistic Indian philosophy with Hindu theology. Every single TV serial talk about obscurantism, religions and religiosity. You start believing the absurd. That is the real danger that has to be combated. They are seeking to replace the syncretic Indian history with Hindu mythology, replace the rich pluralistic Indian philosophy with Hindu theology.

Another observation in the Political Organisation Report is that it is discouraging that the representation of Muslims, Dalits, youths in CPI(M) are declining. How do you address this issue?

What we mean by discouraging is the entry into the leadership positions. That is what is declining and not in terms of their numbers in the party. You should correct that distortion. They are coming in large numbers. You will find Dalits and Muslims in leadership positions at the lower level. But that is not reflected in the leadership at higher levels. It is not happening in the way we would want it to happen. We have two women, two Muslims in the Polit Bureau. But there are no Dalits. Why? 70% of the leadership in states are Dalits and OBCs together. Sometimes it is 90% if you add Muslims to it. But the question is why they are not coming up? This is the serious question we will have to address. There are various reasons. One is the question of economic factor. As party whole-timers, how much we pay, whether they are in a position to maintain their family or not. Normally, the whole timers come into this leadership positions. That is a serious point we will have to address. Otherwise we will have this distortion. Why is it not reflected in the higher leadership? We will have to seriously address this issue. We have to see whether there are any other factors. The desire is that they have to come.

There is a perception that though you have been re-elected, the central leadership is still stacked against you. How do you respond to this?

I don’t see this in terms of a fight between numbers or who is on which side. The point is as a Communist, I have the conviction that my own committees and my own comrades will react to the objective situation. What is the objective situation? What is that we decided at Hyderabad? That is there in black and white. Now the question is to actually implement that, take it forward. Now in that if anybody seeks to create a problem, there is no ambiguity left now. Therefore, with the clarity achieved in Hyderabad, I don’t think there is any question of comrades being on this side or that side. That is why when people said you have won and they have lost, I said nobody has won, nobody has lost. Only party has won. That is the bottom denominator. I sincerely believe the party has won.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald print edition and full text in website in May  2018)

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Oppn has to get together with a policy alternative:

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