Election 2014: In conversation with Prakash Karat, Part II

Hardnews discusses the politics of Third Front with the CPM General Secretary (click here to read the first part) 
Sanjay Kapoor and Sadiq Naqvi Delhi

So they can be trusted to stay with the so-called secular political alliance?

No. We are saying that they can be trusted to stay out of the BJP. 

But the same would not apply to Jayalalithaa?

Why? In the case of Jayalalitha, she had broken with the NDA much earlier but she had never shown any intention of having any understanding with the BJP. 

She is seen as very close to Narendra Modi.

Many people are seen to be close to so many people but that is not how politics works. In Tamil Nadu, she has made it clear that she will have nothing to do with the DMK or its alliance, possibly the Congress and the BJP and its allies, whoever they will be. 

So for the last five years, the political narrative has largely been over the Congress’s scams, corruption, and has less to do with the issues like communalism and social inclusion. Do you think 2014 election would be like the Delhi Assembly – post ideology, post caste?

No, I think what happened in Delhi is basically a Delhi-based phenomenon. Corruption is a major issue in the sense that the Congress has been discredited because of its record of corruption in the last 10 years of its rule. The anti-Congress mood in the country today is not just because of corruption, it is because of price rise, economic difficulties that the people are facing and they blame that on the Congress party and the Central government. These are also major issues. For the bulk of the people, when they see the prices of vegetables shooting up, when they see the price of petrol or diesel being constantly raised, when they see the continuous increase in the cost of living, they realize it is not because of any state government, but a result of the policies pursued by the Central government.

These issues will be at the fore as far as the people are concerned. Therefore, I don’t think the Delhi elections or Delhi phenomenon was about corruption alone; it is because the AAP took up some issues that directly affected the people, electricity rates or water supply, etc. They found support among the poorer sections of the people. Before that, the anti-corruption movement was predominantly a middle class phenomenon. 

But again, the Left has been taking up these issues for the last 65 odd years.

That is why we are strong in the places where we are. We are not there all over the country in strength. But corruption does not become an issue in West Bengal or Kerala because our governments have been relatively corruption-free. Corruption is actually a symptom of the economic policies of the government. We’re fighting those policies, not the symptoms. If you talk corruption, and then allow the loot of natural resources through the policies of the government, that’s not right.

The AAP now says we are against nationalization of the mineral resources of the country. But it is just the opening up of the mineral resources to the private and foreign companies that has led to the loot and all the attendant corruption. We do not talk about corruption alone, without detaching it from the nature of the regime and the policies that are being pursued… 

You think the AAP is not shying away from addressing the root cause?

That is what we have been saying: spell out your basic programme and your policies. Arvind Kejriwal had taken up a fight against privatization of water, I remember earlier. But today he is only talking about better regulation by the government of private companies in these basic services like electricity and water. According to us, that is a myth or a misnomer, because regulatory agencies are set up under the neoliberal regimes precisely to serve the interests of the private sector and private companies. That is why you will find every time the regulatory authority always favours the private sector and companies that are distributing or producing electricity. So I think the AAP is not really coming out with a clear-cut alternative approach to its policies yet. 

Do you think this is deliberate?

We do not know.  We hear they are going to bring it out; they have set up some group to bring it out. We have said we are going to come out with our full-fledged assessment only when we see their basic policies. But bits and pieces, which have come out recently, are not very inspiring. 

But they openly say we are neither Left nor Right. You cannot pin us to any of those places…

They do not believe in any ideology also. So this non-ideological approach, well I am afraid, will make them into another variant of a bourgeoisie party. Maybe an egalitarian-bourgeoisie party. That is something to be seen. 

Do you agree with the BJP’s assertion that they are backed by the CIA?

Well the BJP claiming that has no credibility. It is coming from the BJP, which when in government, forged the closest security and intelligence ties with the Americans. In fact Mr L K Advani visited the CIA office when he was Home Minister and Deputy PM – the only Indian leader to do so – to meet the CIA director. 

BJP has a muscular PM candidate in the form of Narendra Modi. Why is he getting such popular groundswell?

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2014