National

‘The viable Left-Cong alliance is an alternative to polarising forces’

Poornima Joshi/AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on February 15, 2021 Published on February 15, 2021

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury   -  TAMIL

After the nail-biting finish in Bihar where the RJD-Congress-combined Left jointly fought the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance, the expectation that the Left and the Congress will align with the TMC in West Bengal has been doused. In an interview to BusinessLine, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury explains why there is no possibility of the Left fighting alongside the TMC, to take on the BJP, and and also reflects on the political situation in Tamil Nadu after Sasikala’s entry and Rajnikanth opting out of politics. Excerpts:

Why does the Left seem intent on splitting the vote of opposition in West Bengal, is it not helping the BJP?

In Bengal, the division of the votes between the TMC, the Left-Congress and the BJP will doubtless make the contest three-cornered. But it is not necessary that the BJP will gain in the process. There is a very high degree of anti-incumbency against the TMC government. More than 50,000 of our people have been driven out of the State because of threats, violence and police repression. They have not been able to return home in the ten years of TMC rule. They have been separated from their families and they are fed up. An equal number of people are in jail or are being intimidated with cases. Combine this state of fear with the economic misery contributed by the policies of the Centre and States.

In this context, if the Left-Congress alliance was not there, a large section who are against the TMC would have entirely moved towards the BJP. It would have been a sweep for the BJP. But people know that there is a secular democratic alternative to these two polarising forces. A large section of people discontented with the TMC will support the Left-Congress coalition. Minorities, whom the TMC has been apparently appeasing for so many years, find that nothing substantive has been done to improve their lives. There’s a degree of alienation among the secular and minority sections against the TMC. Because of their urge to defeat the BJP, they voted for TMC. Now there’s a viable Left-Congress alliance. In 2019, this alliance could not come to an understanding and that benefited the BJP. Those who were against the TMC moved towards the BJP. It is not an arithmetic calculation. It is a political calculation. Arithmetically, one can say that the division of votes will benefit the BJP. In fact, it was the BJP that was propagating this alliance. They want us to get together because it helps them.

It wasn’t just the BJP, it was also some members of your own coalition in Bihar and liberals who have been saying that Bihar is the model that the Opposition needs to replicate in other States.

This is a purely arithmetic argument. In Bihar, the coalition worked against an incumbent government. Here, you have to factor in the anti-incumbency against TMC and people are alienated with the BJP. We need to present a more credible alternative. In Bengal, there is an obfuscation of real issues by the TMC and the BJP. They are trying to create a binary and media is with them. It is PM-versus-CM and TMC-versus-BJP. This false binary hides the groundswell for the Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal.

How do you view the situation in Tamil Nadu after Sasikala’s entry and Rajnikanth opting out, how is your alliance with DMK working out?

In Tamil Nadu, BJP’s trial balloon with Rajnikanth has failed to take off. Now with Sasikala entering the picture, it is like a bull in a China shop. We don’t know what will break and what will survive. There’s a great degree of uncertainty. The AIADMK was trying to ride on the back of a lot of populist schemes. In the Union Budget too, a lot of schemes have been announced typically without any allocation to back them.

Our alliance, on the other hand, has been working systematically. We are now entering the crucial and tricky phase of seat allocation. We hope it will be done smoothly. Our joint campaigns have already begun.

Do you believe that the Government is taking a hard stand against farmers because they do not believe there is a political cost?

The BJP obviously believes communal polarisation is enough to keep them in office. Their speeches in Parliament give a clear indication that in the coming days, we will see further sharpening of communal polarisation. But the economic reforms they initiated during the course of the pandemic has the working class up in arms, especially against the abrogation of labour laws and large-scale privatisation. Bank unions, including officers, have given a call for a two-day strike. There was an all India general strike called by the trade unions. Farmers joined the working class and intensified their protests on November 26, the day of general strike. Farmers, working class and the middle class have got no relief from the budget. This misery is accentuated by the phenomenal hike in petrol prices. All this is actually is a recipe for this government’s alienation. But in this farm struggle they have got alienated from those very sections who supported them.

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Published on February 15, 2021
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