Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Assembly elections | Objective is to ensure BJP does not hold reins of govt.: Sitaram Yechury

Sitaram Yechury  

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which does not have a single MLA in the 15th Legislative Assembly in Tamil Nadu, is gearing up for the Assembly poll in the company of the DMK. In a freewheeling interview on Sunday, the party’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, elaborates on his thoughts over seat sharing, his party’s position on the third front and the BJP among others. Edited excerpts:

When will the CPI(M) conclude the seat-sharing agreement with the DMK for the Assembly election? What is holding it up?

Well, talks are on. I think they are talking to all constituents of the broader front. With some of them, the agreement has been reached and with some, including the CPI(M), it will be reached soon, in another day or so. It is essentially on the number of seats that each one will contest. But I think it will be completed soon, by tomorrow or the day after.

All constituents of the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance appear to have reluctantly settled for fewer seats citing that they have to fight the BJP. Why do you deem it necessary for parties to make such compromises?

Well, this is not really a compromise because it is a political understanding that in today’s situation in the country the paramount objective is to ensure that the BJP does not hold the reigns of any government. This is because of the experience in the last six years of how they are destroying everything that is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including independent Constitutional authorities.

Beginning with the Parliament itself, on how all of them are being undermined — the Parliament, the Judiciary, the Election Commission, the CBI, the ED, and the last two are being used as political instruments by the State. And at the same time, the sort of economic policy that they are pursuing, enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor; the polarisation that they are working towards and the brazen anti-Constitutional laws that they are bringing in.

Look at the love jihad, which is anti-Constitutional — every individual, who is an adult, has the right to choose his/her life partner. Now, that is being denied. So, what they are doing actually is to creating a new India. The character of the Indian Republic is being changed. That is not in the interest of the country or the people. So, defeating them is the primary political objective. So, it is not a compromise. It is about the best way you defeat them. There has to be a give and take by everybody.

There may be some dissatisfaction with the number of seats. There may be and there will be. Never before, would the CPI(M) have contested in such few seats as it is now. But a large number of forces are also coming together. Everybody has to be accommodated. But it is not a compromise in that sense; it is the pursuance of a line that the party has taken very consciously.

Have the Left parties failed to see the emergence of the BJP and Modi as a political behemoth?

No, we did not fail to see it. In fact, the sad part is that we had been warning, but others failed to take it seriously. Now, they are. But the damage has already been done in six years. If you remember it was the Left parties that had insisted way back in 1996 when the BJP emerged as the single largest party under Mr. Vajpayee. And Mr. Vajyapee was called in and sworn in as the Prime Minister. He had to prove his majority in a week in the Parliament.

It was the Left; we warned the people in the country saying that it cannot be allowed in India’s interest. That was when Mr. Vajpayee was defeated on the floor of the House in the Parliament. And the United Front government came. We played a major role in the forming of the United Front government. Jyoti Basu was offered Prime Ministership and we refused to take it up and in that situation, we said it should be the broader coalition.

So, the Left was always conscious of this, particularly the CPI(M). And we were warning the others as well. Unfortunately, some did not agree. We came together as the United Front, and again, various other political... politicking in that sense. But we were always, all through, conscious. Unfortunately, our apprehensions of the BJP and Modi behemoth have become all the more reconfirmed after Gujarat. That is what is going to happen in the country if they come to the office to hold the Centre.

So, we were conscious from the very beginning. And that is why we have been making a lot more sacrifices. I won’t say compromises. Sacrifices in order to bring together the broader coalition.

The Left was once primarily synonymous with the third front. Why are you not pursuing an alternative front now in Tamil Nadu?

See, the question is, at a time of intense polarisation, no third front or any other front is actually sustainable. Because the people are divided between two polarised political groupings. In such a situation, the point is that you want to save India for the time and for the immediate agenda.

Let us be very clear. The BJP is a political agent of the RSS. It is a political arm of the RSS. The RSS all along believed and believes today more strongly that India is a monolithic Hindu state. And it is rapidly becoming intolerant and fascist in its nature. And that is what they want to transform India into. It means this Constitution has to go if that has to come.

What we see now is that process.. undermining the Constitution. That is why it is absolutely essential that these forces must be kept out of control of the governments — both in the States and in the Centre. And that priority defines the third front’s necessity in today’s condition. So, the third front right now is not a viable option. The point is to have maximum unity among secular and democratic forces.

But why do you support the third front in West Bengal? Why different stands in different States?

That is because of the concrete assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of treating politics as arithmetic. They think everybody comes here and naturally the votes will increase. But politics is not arithmetic but is based on ground realities. In West Bengal, the anti-incumbency in the Trinamool government is very, very high.

In the past 10 years, how they have done it. The politics of terror they have unleashed and the politics of violence that they have unleashed. We have lost more than 300 of our own comrades in these attacks by them.

The entire atmosphere in Bengal is like that. Because of the corruption, because of the manner in which the administration is run, people are alienated from the TMC.

Now, with that alienation from the TMC, if there is only one Opposition to the TMC, everybody coming together in the Opposition, then, in that, the BJP will gain. Or including the TMC, if everybody comes together against the BJP, then the BJP will be the only Opposition. And the anti-incumbency against the TMC will go to the BJP. So, the alternative to the TMC, a non-BJP alternative to the TMC, is absolutely essential. In order to mobilise the anti-incumbency vote as well as the secular vote against the BJP. So it depends on the ground situation in each State, how this political polarisation is taking place.

Opposition parties have been accusing the BJP of being communal and sectarian. But the people re-elected Modi with an absolute majority in 2019. Do you feel the Opposition is missing something here?

Yes, Mr. Modi was elected with an absolute majority in 2019. But the votes that the BJP polled was only 37%. About 63% of the people who voted, voted against the BJP. So, it is not that the people were overwhelmingly supporting the BJP. The vast majority, nearly double the number of votes that the BJP got are those that voted against the BJP, but were split.

That is why there is a need for coming together depending on the ground situation in each State. Like in Bengal, it is different. Like in Kerala, it is different. In Maharashtra, in Madhya Pradesh and in other places, it is different. Tamil Nadu will be different. But that coming together, the division of the Opposition votes, giving an advantage to the BJP, that is something that needs to be avoided.

So, it is not because of their popularity among majority of the Indian people. Yes, a section of them definitely voted for them [the BJP], but other factors are also there. The entire pre-election narrative was shifted away from people’s livelihood problems... That was moved through Pulwama and Balakot exercises. So, the narrative having shifted, the actual issues of people’s livelihood went into the background. That went to the advantage of the BJP.

So, it is not as if it is the great popularity. It is the question of the circumstances in which the elections were held. And the concrete situation of that period. Remember 63% of Indian people who voted, voted against the BJP. That is the fact, that is the reality.

Is there a need for a national alliance to take on the BJP in the coming years? If so, which party should lead such a front?

See, who will lead will depend again on people’s support. Today, the principal Opposition party in the country is Congress. It has different positions in different States. It is inevitable in a country of India’s proportions and diversity. That apart, the Congress is the leading Opposition in the Parliament and outside.

But then the Left parties have their own and other regional parties have their own and all of them have their own very, very important roles. So, in many of the States, it is neither the Congress nor the BJP in government.

Regional parties also have important roles to play. So you will have to bring together all these forces. The first and foremost objective is to save India and its Constitution. And to change India for the better. So what you require is an alternative programme, an alternative policy. It is not merely an arithmetic addition of parties, but a pragmatic understanding of what needs to be done for the country and the people. That is what needs to be worked out at the national level. And those who agree will naturally join. So, it will not be a choice between parties, but one between policies.

Many parties, including the Congress and DMK have now been pushed to declare that they are not opposed to Hindus or Hinduism? Does this reflect that the BJP has succeeded in pushing them to a corner on the Hindutva plank?

No, Hinduism and Hindutva are two different things. In fact, the person who coined the term Hindutva, Savarkar, makes it explicitly clear that Hindutva has nothing to do with Hindu religiosity. Hindutva is a political project. And the political project of Hindutva is exactly what the RSS’ vision of a Hindu state or a Hindu country is.

So Hinduism as a religion, many people follow it. Many people have their affiliation to other religious sections of India. Apart from Islam and Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were born in this country. So it is not that the BJP has forced people to become recognised Hindus. People are choosing their individual religious practices.

What do the Communists say? Most of us are atheists. But at the same time, the right of any person is to have a belief of his/her choice. And that is something that we shall protect. But that is your private space. That is not to be confused in the public space or in politics. Your right to your private life will be protected, with no interference either in politics or in your social behaviour.

Sometimes, people fall prey to soft Hindutva. The more they talk about soft Hindutva; the more they are strengthening hard Hindutva. So that is the danger I think many parties are realising.

You say that religion is a personal choice. But the BJP undertook a ‘Vel Yatra’ to highlight Lord Murugan, attempting to mobilise support from the Hindus. Do you think it will have an effect on the Hindus in Tamil Nadu?

You see, may be momentarily, they will have some sort of a fleeting effect. But in the final analysis, that hypocrisy is also exposed. So far, their own concept of the RSS is “One religion, one country, one faction” or “One Nation, one language, one culture”.

But, for electoral opportunism, they will come here and talk of Murugan in order to get the support of Tamilians. And after showing complete contempt to anybody south of the Vindhyas, that is what the BJP has always done, for electoral compulsions.

For West Bengal, they will go to Bengal and talk about Subhash Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore with whom they have nothing in common. And having not been part of the freedom struggle at all, they have nothing in common with all these personalities. They will still go there.

And the lead is given by our Prime Minister; he wants to look like Tagore when he goes to Bengal for elections. When he gets his vaccination done, he wears this Assamese gamcha and the nurse is from Tamil Nadu and assistant nurse from Puducherry.

So, everything for them is an election campaign. So, it is elections minus politics. Because that is what they have. They don’t have any alternative politics.

Do you think that the Election Commission of India will succeed in curbing the distribution of money to voters in Tamil Nadu this time?

Well, we hope they succeed. The Election Commission of India has been lenient and very porous in many of its decisions that helped the ruling party. And we hope that it will not be [this time] and we hope that they will be successful in catching the money power that is distorting democracy in our country.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 10:41:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/objective-is-to-ensure-bjp-does-not-hold-reigns-of-any-govt-says-yechury/article34013962.ece

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