India needs a President who will uphold its secular, democratic character, says Sitaram Yechury
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CPI(M) general secretary says the upcoming presidential polls are not about an individual but whether India wins or loses

April 12, 2022 08:42 pm | Updated April 13, 2022 03:19 pm IST - New Delh

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. File

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. File | Photo Credit: S.K. Mohan

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Silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in face of incidents of violence during the Ram Navami procession in four states is an “eloquent testimony” that forces who behind these incidents enjoy official patronage newly re-elected CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said in an interview to The Hindu.

Mr. Yechury said, that it is very ominous sign and that one must remember that rise of Hitler had preceded by “night of long knives” when private armies had gone for a rampage. The conditions back then and now are entirely different but the direction is similar, he added.

Speaking about the party organisation and decline, Mr. Yechury said, that effort will be go to the grassroot and organise agitations at local level for tangible results.

He also said that the opposition will put up a joint candidate for the upcoming President’s election. The question is not whether the said candidate will win or lose, because the BJP-led NDA are comfortably placed. “It is the question of whether India wins or India loses,” he said.

Excerpts of the interview

Days after his re-election for a third term at the helm of the CPI(M), party general secretary Sitaram Yechury outlined plans to reverse the political decline of the party and discussed the ramifications of the upcoming election for the President of India.

You are entering the third term as General Secretary of CPI(M) at a time when your party is facing a general decline as per the political-organisational report presented at Kannur points out. Where do you go from here?

The point is to arrest and reverse this decline. First of all, this decline is not recent we have been noting it since our 17th party Congress that was held nearly 20-years back. We have had our discussions, resolutions and an exclusive plenum at Kolkata to discuss the decline though we fell short in implementing these decisions. Second is to reverse the decline. For that, the party must independently take up issues of the people not only at the national level issues like the farm movement but the focus should be on the local struggles whereby in every locality, wherever CPI(M) branches exist, agitations should be held on the problems people there are facing so that tangible results could be achieved. That is how the party can develop from grass roots. So, our focus would be to increase our independent strength and, on that basis, to increase our political intervention capacities.

The last induction in the Polit Bureau of members between the age of 35 to 45 years was about three decades back when you and Prakash Karat joined. Many were expecting a similar change this time too. Why did the party hold back?

In this Congress, we have had three new entrants in the Polit Bureau and the three are younger than the existing ones. In the CC too we have 17 new inductees in Central Committee, despite the fact that the strength has gone down from 95 to 85. We want to correspondingly reduce the strength of the Polit Bureau, but it was not done due to various considerations. One of them was to give deserved representation to the sections which were hitherto not represented. That is why for the first time in our history we have a Dalit Polit Bureau member. I think we have got a fairly good mix of the young and senior comrades with a wealth of experience behind them.

The political organisational report also notes that in West Bengal committed Left voters went ahead and voted for the BJP to escape the alleged tyranny of the TMC. Doesn’t it worry the party that such a trend could endure?

Not at all! The report was a candid recognition that the people who suffered under the TMC rule voted to end that suffering. And that is only natural. Which is why in Bengal we gave anti-TMC and anti-BJP call. Those who had the urge to end the TMC rule thought the BJP would be better and those who wanted to resist the BJP rule went to TMC. It is only natural in electoral politics, that in such polarisation any third force gets squeezed out. So in that sense it is not worrying at all. On the contrary it shows that the TMC victory in Bengal was not victory of any one party, it was the victory of the people of Bengal.

Moving beyond your party, there have been sporadic incidents of violence during the Ram Navmi processions and many see this as an ominous sign and even go to the extent of comparing the situation unfolding here with Nazi Germany. Do you agree with such a comparison?

It is very difficult not to draw such comparisons, because the rise of the Hitler and fascism in Germany preceded by the episode of “night of the long knives”, when such private armies went berserk. So something of that nature naturally comes to the mind in the context of these incidents. Of course, the conditions back then and those today are entirely different. But the direction is similar. Hitler kept silent then and today you have our Prime Minister keeping mum. That brooks a fair comparison. And in any case the silence itself of Prime Minister is eloquent testimony to the fact that these forces enjoy official patronage and that is very, very ominous.

In such a context doesn’t Opposition unity becomes even more important? And this unity will be tested during the upcoming election for President of India in July.

If you recollect, in the past few occasions the Opposition has put up a united candidate for President and Vice-Presidential elections. This time around too, I believe, we must put up a formidable fight. It is not a question of who wins or who loses. It is the question of whether India wins or India loses.

But the Opposition is a divided house with AAP, TMC and TRS not willing to be led by the Congress. While it is the Congress which has the greatest number of legislators after the BJP.

The question here is not who is leading the Opposition. We need to arrive at a consensus on the candidate. It is not a question of measuring the influence of each party and what its role should be. A President who will be able to uphold the secular democratic character of the Indian republic and its Constitutional foundation, that is what the country and its people need.

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