‘Left knows its overall strength is limited’

Poornima Joshi AM Jigeesh | Updated on May 13, 2014

Prakash Karat

We are trying to cooperate with secular, non-Congress parties to fight BJP: CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat

Three days before the election results come out, the political class is not exactly sitting idle.

While the Congress is believed to be reaching out to regional outfits such as the SP and the BSP to keep the BJP out, the Left believes it is not the Congress but the 11-party pre-poll alliance stitched by the CPI(M) that will be a major player in getting regional players on board. CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat tells Poornima Joshi and AM Jigeesh how his party plans to fight what he believes is a “combined might of big business and communal fascism”. Excerpts from the interview:

Much has been written about Narendra Modi’s development plank but how would you analyse the role of the RSS and the level of mobilisation it has undertaken?

The RSS had taken complete charge of the campaign, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Much before the election, there has been a systematic campaign on communal issues which they feel can evoke a response. For example, two years ago in western UP there was an anti-cow slaughter campaign.

Subsequently, a whole campaign was generated about Hindu girls being lured by Muslim boys, which partly resulted in the Muzaffarnagar riots.

From the time the SP assumed office in 2012, UP witnessed a series of communal incidents. I think there was a planned effort to create communal tensions and polarisation keeping in mind the Lok Sabha elections. We have had reports about the RSS conducting a door-to-door campaign distributing leaflets and booklets on Hindutva.

The campaign was conducted at two levels — at one level Modi’s so called development and good governance was projected. The media was used extensively for that. At the ground level, there was an intense communal campaign. If you notice, Modi is mixing these issues, using communal propaganda as required.

For example, in Assam and West Bengal, he highlighted the issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators and in Bihar and other places he talked about cow slaughter in coded terms like pink revolution. There is a very intense communal campaign in this election by the BJP and it has not been properly talked about.

Are you saying that Modi’s personality reflects the RSS’ dual strategy, development on the surface and communalism beneath it?

Yes and the development/governance theme is reinforced because Modi has the full support and backing of the corporate sector and big business.

This is a great source of strength for him because it legitimises his Hindutva platform which does not have to be overtly stated. The Hindutva undercurrent exists because Modi symbolises it as a political leader. The veneer of development is needed in the bid to harvest the discontent against the UPA.

How is the Left prepared to deal with the present situation?

The Left knows its overall strength in the country is limited and, in the immediate context, we are trying to cooperate with other secular, non-Congress parties to fight the BJP. I think the Left is facing a more difficult task than in the 1980s or 1990s because neo-liberal policies have actually strengthened the classes that are likely to support communal fascism.

What I mean to say is that there are a large number of secular parties but the influence of big money and business politics affects them as well. So, notwithstanding their secular ideology, they tend to get assimilated in big business politics. For example, I would never have thought a party like the DMK, with the kind of anti-orthodoxy, movement that preceded its formation, will ever have an alliance with the BJP. It happened.

So, class interests backing regional parties force them to align with the national mainstream and desert the Left, even if it goes against their ideology?

In the past, regional parties represented regional capitalists. But capitalism has grown and with the dismantling of licensing policy that favoured big capitalists, regional players have experienced an exponential growth.

In many places like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, they are as big as the national players. These players, who back the regional parties, would typically be dictated by their class interest to do business with the BJP.

In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the BJP is not a strong force but you find there are influential and economically powerful sections that dictate the regional parties to do business with Modi. We know now that some players in the north, Mulayam Singh Yadav for instance, will not consider an electoral understanding with us.

It is the same with Lalu Prasad Yadav. We had a united platform with them but they gained at our expenses and we lost our mass base. In Tamil Nadu, both the Dravidian parties would still consider an alliance with us because the Left has a chunk of votes. Jayalalithaa wanted us this time but offered us one seat each. No Dravidian party has ever offered us only one seat.

But despite our differences and understanding of their opportunism, the BJP is the main threat. To keep them away, we have aligned with the SP and various factions of the Janata Dal since the 1980s. That will be our strategy in the future as well.

Published on May 13, 2014

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