Election 2014: In conversation with Prakash Karat, Final part

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


Post the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, it is a highly charged polity…

In certain parts of Western UP, there has been a certain impact of the communal polarization after Muzaffarnagar. But that is not the situation in the rest of UP. 

BJP is trying to turn Parliament elections into a Presidential contest. Do you have a candidate in place in case of your alliance winning a majority?

We are against such a concept. The parties that are coming together strongly believe that in a Parliamentary system, the question of PM candidate will be decided in the post election period, when the situation so arises. This is what we have always done, in 1989 with the formation of the VP Singh government, and in 1996 with the formation of the United Front government. The question of who should be the leader was decided after mutual consultations, after the elections among the various constituent parties and their leaders. 

This particular arrangement you following has two components – a pre-poll and a post-poll one…

The difference between now, and say 1996, when the United Front was cobbled together after elections with the single aim of preventing the BJP from forming the government, is that we don’t have a front or a pre-election alliance. We have only arrived at some broad understanding about working together before the elections. Essentially, this is to pave the way for a post-poll alliance. If you have seen the history of these parties, after the collapse or the dismantling of the United Front in 1998, we were all scattered and went different ways. It is for the first time that a bulk of these parties has come together, with the exception of the TDP. 

There are some members of the so-called broader Left who have been insisting that Congress should also be a part of this anti-communal front. They are wary of the AAP, thinking it is being helped by the BJP itself. Do you subscribe to this idea?

No, this is not an anti-communal front alone. It is an anti-Congress and anti-BJP combination. There is a combination in Bihar like that of the RJD, the Congress and the LJP. Congress is part of such a combination. We are going into this election opposing the policies of the Congress, pursued under the UPA government, I want to make that very clear. 

Do you think the policies that allowed you to support UPA-I have become different now?

That is not so clear-cut. Even under UPA-I, we fought against many of their policies. That was the whole struggle then. If they wanted to sell shares of BHEL, we had to fight against it. They wanted to push for privatization in certain sectors; they wanted to open up the banking sector and insurance to more foreign capital. All that we had to fight. We were in a better position to block some of those policies, resist them. But they have speeded that up after UPA-II. Today, when we go into election, we can’t forget that people want a change in the policies that have caused price rise, caused farmers distress, unemployment. So when you say Congress is a part of this, then you are accepting that the old regime should continue. The Congress is going to be rejected by the people. The mandate will be against the UPA government’s policies. So there is no question of us going with the Congress and this alliance. 

You may have taken a principled stance against the civilian nuclear deal with United States but the Congress seemed to have benefitted from the rupture that took place between you and their party in 2008. Do you think you misread the situation there?

I do not think they benefitted from that. In UPA-I, they benefitted from the implementation of the NREGA Act, from the Forest Rights Act, the waiver of loans to the farmers by banks, the RTI and so on. These were all the legislations passed under the UPA-I. So in one sense, we helped them by pushing for these measures to be implemented. The civilian nuclear deal, they only took it seriously when the Congress said we would be providing cheap electricity to all. I do not think this was any issue in the elections. Subsequent developments show that this was a dud deal, India had nothing much to gain from it. Au contraire, we had to give many other concessions to the Americans. We were hurt not because of the nuclear deal break up with the UPA, we were hurt in the elections because of the situation in West Bengal where we lost the Parliament elections for the first time from Trinamool Congress; the electoral setback in 2009 had nothing to do with nuclear deal. It was not an issue for the people in the elections. 

But what were the reasons for the failure of the Left parties in the 2009 elections?

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