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‘Congress, BJP marked by failure’

In 2004, the CPI (M) fought the elections with twin goals: defeat the BJP and maximise Left presence in Parliament. The party was spectacularly successful in this. This time, the CPI (M) aims to strengthen the Left and democratic forces and form an alternative secular government.
The CPI (M)’s general secretary Prakash Karat has played a pivotal role in the formation of a Third Front. In an interaction with K.V. Prasad, he talks about the emerging political scenario.
This is the first time the CPI (M) is contesting a general election after you became the General Secretary. What is the new strategy to increase the CPI (M)’s presence in the Lok Sabha?

The election line of the party does not depend on who the General Secretary is. The Central Committee decides the party’s political approach and tactics for elections. As for strategy, the role the CPI (M) played in national politics in the last five years is going to be basis on which we will go to the people. We expect that people will recognise that we played an important role in defending national sovereignty and ensuring that certain pro-people commitments made in the Common Minimum Programme were implemented. We strived hard to see that polices that were harmful to people were not adopted.
Your overall political assessment in the country and that of the Left parties’ performance in particular.
The overall political situation in the country has been marked by the failure of the two major parties, with the Congress and the BJP unable to win increased support. The other factor is that both the alliances, the UPA and the NDA, are in the doldrums. The country is experiencing the adverse impact of global economic crisis, [with] growing economic difficulties of the people, whether it is loss of lakhs of jobs, rise in the prices of essential commodities or agrarian crisis. None of these are being effectively tackled by the Congress-led Government. At the same time, the BJP has proved incapable of rising above its sectarian and communal agenda. This has created a situation where the emergence of a Third Force has become credible and gathered momentum. The CPI (M) and the Left parties are working to build an effective non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.
The CPI (M) leadership was mandated to strive for a third alternative. How much of this task has been accomplished?

We had envisaged a third alternative based on policies opposed to that of the Congress and the BJP. Such an alternative needs to be built over a period but for this Lok Sabha election, we are striving for an electoral alternative. This platform will broadly cover four major areas: initiate pro-people economic policies as against neo-liberal policies; firm defence of secularism; strong federalism; and independent foreign policy. It is around such a platform that an alternative can be set up.
Has the CPI (M) given the Bahujan Samaj Party a greater l profile than the party had achieved so far?
The BSP had acquired a national profile after its victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2007 and it is not the CPI (M), which has contributed. What we have done is to identify areas of cooperation between the Left and BSP during the trust vote in July 2008. You had mentioned that the effort this time would be to ensure that a non-Congress and non-BJP Government is not rocked by either party from the outside. How do you plan to do this?

We have the experience of having non-Congress secular governments in the country. In 1989-90, it was the National Front Government of V.P. Singh in 1996-98, it was the United Front Government. They were destabilised by the Congress or the BJP or together. Our effort in these elections is to muster enough strength for a non-Congress secular government to be able to run on its own. It is a difficult task but given the churning that is going on in Indian politics, it is not impossible.
Is the issue of whether the new national alternative should seek the support of the Congress settled? Or has it been left for the future?
As I said, we would like to see an alternative secular government, which will have the strength to run on its own steam. What will happen after the elections cannot be speculated now. It will have to take into account post-election situation. Realignment [of political forces] is bound to happen. We do not expect the UPA and the NDA to remain in the present form.


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