'You cannot judge the Left by election results alone’

CPI Secretary Atul Anjaan talks to Hardnews

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi

How do you see the historic defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal?
There are many ups and downs in a multiparty democracy. And you cannot judge the Left by election results alone. The Left is basically a people's movement, a struggle. You cannot compare it with BJP or Congress - parties that have never tried to organise people or participate in grassroot struggles. They are there only to rule. The Left, on the other hand, is constantly fighting for a new social order. Immediately after independence, many people had written off the Left and said it has no base in India, despite its great contribution to the freedom struggle, its battles against feudalism and other forms of exploitation, and its unrelenting efforts to organise the youth. Nevertheless, in the first general elections in 1952, it emerged as the largest party after Congress. Look at the 2009 Lok Sabha elections; it was nothing but a game of money-power. Candidates were bought and sold. Please remember, nowhere else in the world has one party ruled for 34 long years. Even the tallest Congress stalwarts could not carry on for so long.

So what went wrong this time?
There was a sincere desire for change. And other reasons as well - some events... Don't forget, everyone had ganged up against the Left. Even then, with Maoist support, Mamata Banerji and Congress could get only 50 per cent of the votes. 

What do you mean by 'some events'? Nandigram and Singur?
Nandigram became a catalyst for change. In history, there are some unforgettable events, and it was one of those. Just as the nasbandi (sterilisation) campaign brought about Indira Gandhi's ouster, it was Nandigram that led to the fall of the Left Front. We opposed the project in Nandigram. I had gone there and held a rally, where I said the project is wrong. But while we dwell on this, I would like to draw your attention to what even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the biggest threat - Leftwing extremism. Trinamool Congress and Congress joined hands with them in Bengal against the Left Front. The Manmohan Singh -Sonia Gandhi government is actively engaged in destabilising the state governments.  

What has the Left Front government done for the people of Bengal in these 34 years?
You can't say the Left Front has done nothing all these years. We were the ones who initiated land reforms and also streamlined the PDS system, making it accessible to the poor. Bengal is today one of the biggest foodgrain producers in the country. There have been no cases of communal disharmony in the state. No Left leader has ever been accused in a corruption case. You don't find CBI raiding their houses. Nandigram was only an inadvertent error, a human error similar to what PC Chidambaram said about those errors in the terror list. (laughs)

What will be the framework of introspection after this defeat?
We are an organised party, and so everything we discuss comes out in the open. We follow scientific socialism. Now is the time to demand that the natural resources of the country must be judiciously redistributed. Talking of introspection, I think, we do need to re-articulate, redesign, and tailor our positions and formulae in a new way. 

Did big brother CPM become arrogant after decades in power?
I will not deny that. We told them two years ago to shun arrogance. Our own people too have to change their behaviour. Above all, I want to make it clear that CPI doesn't follow CPM, although this perception exists because of ideological similarity.  

How do the Left parties plan to return to power, or should we see this as the end of the Left?
This is not the end of the Left. We have got more than 40 per cent votes. We will analyse and take a re-look at the reasons for this defeat. Also, I feel, there is a need for Left forces to unite. There is a need for dialogue and a common understanding. Even for the Maoists, I would say that dialogue is the only option. Indeed, if Indira Gandhi could return to power after her defeat in 1977, the Left Front too can do it in 2016. As long as there are inequalities in this country, you will find the red flag waving.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2011

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