Prakash Karat says the Aam Aadmi Party raises corruption issues without questioning basic policies

India is too diverse a country to be ruled by an authoritarian model, says Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In an interview to Anita Joshua, he talks about the prospects of a non-BJP, non-Congress government, and the reasons parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party get more political mileage than the Left does by raising the very same issues.

Is there space for a third alternative when there is clamour for decisive leadership; especially given the confusion that the third front has come to represent?

We are the anti-thesis of what [BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra] Modi’s platform stands for. A call for a strong leader is the call also of the corporate media. The turn away from [Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh by the corporate media is because it sees Modi as the man who can deliver better for us now.

Along with that is the strong authoritarian message which is what big business and corporates want. In the name of firm rule, and law and order, put down all discontent.

Marry this with the Hindutva ideology and it becomes a dangerous mix. That is why we stress the opposite. We stress a more federal set-up; decentralisation of power at the Centre. Forget about an individual, we don’t want this sort of authoritarian power concentrated even in the government at the Centre. We do not want what the BJP has always hankered for — a presidential form of government where one man will have all the executive power. In a country like India, this will have a very disrupting and divisive impact. India is too diverse and vast a country to be ruled by an authoritarian model.

On hindsight, was it premature to have tried to bring together non-Congress, non-BJP parties before the elections?

What we announced on February 25 is our joint intention to be together against the Congress and the BJP, and after the elections, we will give concrete shape to that alternative.

But isn’t it a setback that some of the partners to that announcement have dropped out?

We knew at the outset that most of the constituents cannot have electoral tie-ups among themselves. The purpose of the all-India coming together was not to have any form of electoral alliance between these parties because we felt that all these parties — mostly regional — would work to maximise their own performance in the elections. All of them had a stake in fighting either the Congress or the BJP in their respective States and on the basis of this we would pool our resources after the elections.

Most of the signatories to the February 25 statement avoided calling the alternative a “third front.” Has that term been junked?

A front would imply having a common platform based on a programme. When we don’t have that why should we claim that? We said this is a post-election possibility. Post-election we can come together on a common programme and have a front.

The AAP has flagged some of the issues that the Left has been raising for years with little effect. Why does the AAP voice find more resonance on the same issues?

The corporate media gives them publicity. We took up gas pricing issue in 2005 when the first Group of Ministers was set up to increase the price. If AAP takes it up, it is harmless. When the Left takes it up, it does not leave it; it pursues it. It’s not just a question of targeting some individuals; it’s a question of policy. We are trying to reverse these policies. We have basic positions which are not accepted by very influential circles. They want to disregard it. So, when we critique these policies, it is striking at the basic root of these policies. AAP raises issues without questioning basic policies.

There are sections of the middle class who agree with the privatisation; so they find it comfortable to be with this position where corruption is reduced to a moral question. We say the system itself engenders this form of corruption and corruption is an instrument to accumulate capital under the present neo-liberal capitalist system.

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