November 22, 2020

Maximise Pooling of Anti-BJP, Anti-TMC Votes in Bengal

Sitaram Yechury’s Interview with Ganashakti

What are the lessons of Bihar elections?

Yechury: There are many lessons to be drawn from Bihar elections. First, the largest possible unity of secular forces against BJP/JDU alliance could be achieved and it paid dividends. Secondly, RJD-Congress Mahagatbandhan was strengthened by three Left parties joining with them. It ushered in a different nature of campaign, different from traditional election campaigns in Bihar. Economic issues were sharply raised, particularly the issue of unemployment. There was huge response from the youth. Thirdly, the Left parties are acclaimed in the whole country for their consistent championing of issues related to people’s livelihood and democratic rights. They are uncompromisingly committed against communalism. This has enhanced the Mahagatbandhan’s credibility on these issues. In reality Mahagatbandhan has got a mere 0.03% less vote than BJP-JD(U) combine. The thrust of our campaign was to defeat BJP/JD(U) alliance for Bihar’s sake and for India’s sake. It was proved that BJP can be seriously challenged.

Assembly elections in West Bengal are few months away. Already talks about political formations have started. What will be CPI(M)’s main political strategy in Bengal?

Yechury :CPI(M) in its Party Congress has adopted the political tactical line. Among several objectives the first and primary task is to defeat and remove BJP from central government and in the states. In West Bengal too, the primary objective is to defeat BJP in the interest of Bengal and India. The question is how to achieve this objective.

In the concrete situation of West Bengal to defeat BJP we have to isolate and defeat TMC. TMC had prepared the road of entry for BJP in Bengal. BJP has strengthened its foothold with the help from TMC. TMC was in alliance with BJP. The present CM was a union cabinet minister in NDA governments. Their credibility in fighting BJP is very low in the first place.

There is very deep discontent and anti incumbency against TMC government. There is widespread discontent against TMC”s politics of terror and intimidation. Any urge to defeat BJP encompassing everybody including TMC is self defeating. In that case, all anti incumbency sentiments will only favour the BJP, as the only opposition. Such a tactics will ensure the victory of BJP. What is required in Bengal is maximum possible polling of anti-BJP, anti-TMC votes. CPI(M) CC has decided to pursue this objective.

Already there are talks about “main enemy”. Should we mobilise against both BJP and TMC? Is it a fact that Left’s targeting TMC is helping BJP? How should we treat this question?
Yechury: Main political enemy is BJP, not only in Bengal but in the whole of India. The moot question is to how you can defeat this enemy. As I told already, If you don’t campaign against TMC, don’t fight them anti-incumbency will favour the opposition, that is BJP. The objective of defeating BJP will be defeated. Such a tactics will only help BJP.

BJP and TMC both want a bipolar narrative to work. Either TMC or BJP. They both encourage this narrative so that no political space for a third formation can be gained. This bipolar narrative, too, will help BJP. People against TMC will go for one way towards BJP. The policies of TMC in Bengal are anti-people, little different from BJP”s policies. A credible third alternative will be formed through struggles against both these forces.

There are some perceptions in some quarters that it is not wise to treat both BJP and TMC as enemies of the people. Even in some quarters a ‘softening” attitude about TMC is proposed in various forms. Though there is strong discontent among people against TMC.  Some say, CPI(M) is fighting against the state government only. What should be CPI(M)”s stand?

Yechury: Such perceptions, if any,  are misplaced in our opinion. TMC is in the state government. How can you not fight this anti-people government? The government is run by TMC. CPI(M) and the Left are fighting for demands of livelihood of the people, on their burning issues. The Left parties are reflecting the discontent of the people. But it is wrong to say that the struggle is only against the state government. CPI(M) is consistent in fighting against the policies of the central government. Whom did we fight at the time of lockdown? Who are we fighting against in the ensuing strike and kisan protests on 26th & 27th? There is a continuous struggle against privatisation of public sector, changes in the labour laws, against new agri bills. CPI(M) is consistent in the fight against Modi government’s attack on democracy, their attempt to destroy Constitution. This is misguided and disinformation to say that CPI(M) is not fighting against the central government. 

I have already told about the danger. We are not treating TMC and BJP equally. No other political party in the country can be equated with BJP. BJP is attempting to destroy constitutional democracy and Republican character of our country. In West Bengal, CPI(M) is fighting both against TMC state government and BJP central government.

What is CPI(M)’s stand on question of communal threat and attempts of communal polarisation in Bengal. Particularly in the context of Bengal’s history and demography.

Yechury: Bengal has experienced a sordid tragedy of ghastly communal riots during the partition. On the day India achieved independence, Gandhiji was on an indefinite fast in Kolkata. He did not go to Red For to unfurl the tri-colour flag. There were barbaric riots in Noakhali. He proceeded to go there. This wound of communal division was deeply ingrained in the minds of the people of Bengal. But the Communists and the Left not only kept this in check but largely erased this wound for over half a century. The struggles in Bengal, the struggles concerning livelihood, progressive politics, cultural milieu helped in the process. Minority sections felt security, enjoyed democracy in Bengal. During Babri Masjid demolition, there was no communal riot in Bengal. People who suffered communal carnage in other parts of the country took shelter in Bengal.  When the minority was suffering from sense of insecurity in many parts of the country, the Muslims in Bengal not only felt secure, they strived for better livelihood, better qualifications. This was the strength of Left and democratic movement in Bengal. This sense of security cannot be achieved by pandering to any communal, fundamentalist forces. BJP is constantly trying to fall back on the past to revive communal passions. In Bengal, this has become the main content of its campaign. CPI(M) has steadfastly positioned itself against communal politics and will continue to do so.

Why the CPI(M) and Left Front is going for an electoral understanding with Congress? Is it only a question of vote mobilisation?

Yechury: CPI(M) is not going with electoral understanding with Congress alone. CPI(M) stands for unity of all such forces who are willing to defend secular, democratic, republican character of our constitution. In the concrete situation of each state the nature of this unity will be determined. CPI(M) is not subservient to any one, nor we are telling others to be subservient to us. In the concrete situation of Bihar, Left has combined with RJD-Congress. In Tamilnadu, we will go with DMK-led front, including Congress. CPI(M) will contest elections in Assam along with all opposition secular forces including Congress. In West Bengal, talks are going on for seat sharing among all anti-BJP anti-TMC  secular parties. This is the CPI(M)’s position.

(Translated from Bengali)