Conceding that the Left will not have a very strong presence in the next Lok Sabha, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat on Saturday said while the Left parties could play a role in putting together a secular alternative — if the situation warranted — they would not be in a position to determine policy.

He was responding to a question on reports suggesting that the Congress was wary of doing business with the Left in government formation for fear that the CPI(M) would try to steer the country away from economic liberalisation.

Fielding questions on a range of issues at an interaction with the media organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps, Mr. Karat refused to be drawn into speculation on whether the CPI(M) would be open to have Trinamool Congress in the third alternative if its numbers were needed.

”We will have to wait and see because it is a party which has earlier had no hesitation to go with the BJP. Mamata Banerjee’s attitude to Narendra Modi will become clear only after the elections,” he said; dismissing her anti-BJP statements as election rhetoric. “It is very possible for her to join the NDA now and leave just before the West Bengal Assembly elections to wean back the Muslim vote.” Maintaining that the widespread anti-Congress sentiment was being misinterpreted as a “Modi wave”, Mr. Karat insisted that the BJP alone will not benefit from this mood. The non-Congress secular parties will also benefit from this in areas where they are strong.

On potential constituents of the third alternative, Mr. Karat pointed out that not one of the 11 signatories to the February 25, 2014 statement had gone with the Congress or the BJP. He also indicated the possibility of a couple of other parties joining this alternative; underscoring that the Congress would have to be integral to such a grouping.

About the stability of a third alternative — given past experience — the CPI(M) leader maintained that it was not the smaller parties but the Congress which destabilised two United Front governments. Faced with criticism of Samajwadi Party’s communal campaign, he said many of the statements attributed to the party were essentially made to counter the RSS propaganda that has been gathering steam ever since the Akhilesh Yadav government came to power in the State. Also, he sought to underscore the role played by the Samajwadi Party in the 1980s and 1990s to fight majority communalism.