CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury is the most vocal and recognisable face of the Left Front. In an exclusive interview to Swati Chaturvedi in her programme Kahiye Janab, Yechury shares his party’s view point on the UPA government’s failure in the CVC case, rampant corruption, price rise and Left’s prospects of returning to power in West Bengal again. Here are the excerpts:
Swati: As you are aware that the UPA-II has had a disastrous start with several scams- CWG scam, Adarsh Housing Society and 2G spectrum allocation scam, now the government has fallen flat on the CVC issue. Do you think the PM must be remembering the UPA-I days when the Left was with them?
Yechury: If it is so then it is good. At that time, he was only concerned about sealing the Indo-US nuclear deal, which we opposed. He should not have done that. See, there is not much difference between the UPA-I and the UPA-II, but this time there has been a serious decline of morality in the government’s functioning. His image as an honest person has been completely shattered.
Swati: Before the signing of the Indo-US deal, the Prime Minister had made a long statement in the Lok Sabha defending the deal but why did he fail to take a similar stand on the CVC issue?
Yechury: It is very interesting to note that the PM has taken moral responsibility for the error in appointing PJ Thomas as the CVC, but it does not stop the buck here. He has to tell the nation why it actually happened. He cannot shirk from his responsibility just by accepting the error. He has to take some bold measures to avoid the recurrence of such instances in the future.
Swati: We are known as a robust democracy world over, but in its 7 ½ years of rule, the UPA government has caused a serious institutional damage to our democracy. What do you have to say?
Yechury: See, more damage has been done to the nation’s image in the UPA-II than in the UPA-I. The Prime Minister, who is now talking about the coalition dharma or coalition compulsion, did not say so in his first term. He even went out to sign the Indo-US deal without our backing. If he did not care about coalition pressure then, how is it affecting his government now? You see, since they have utterly failed to rein in corruption, they are now shielding themselves in the pretext of coalition compulsion. It is the duty of the government to strengthen the parliamentary system, which is weakening day by day.
Swati: PM can be compared to the CEO of a company, who is responsible to the shareholders and investors. Don’t you think that the PM is answerable to the nation in the same manner?
Yechury: If the Prime Minister is the CEO of the nation then the people are stakeholders. It is incorrect to pursue an agenda which benefits only few people. For example, in the CVC case, the Opposition’s advice was ignored. Later, the Supreme Court also said that it cannot question the integrity of an individual, but asked why such a corruption-tainted person was chosen for appointment as CVC.
Swati: Just two days before the SC ruling, the CVC went missing. He was later traced to a church and when asked by the government to step down voluntarily, he said that God is on his side so he will win his case in the apex court. That’s a sign of his mental soundness?
Yechury: Oh! We did not know about it. We will discuss it later. See, even after the SC ruling, he has not quit from his post. The Government is also not clarifying on this issue. No one knows what is happening. The Opposition is also in the dark over this. In the past 60 years since independence, we have sustained ourselves as a robust and a vibrant democracy, but now it appears that the roots of our democracy are shaking. The government’s functioning and its policies are responsible for this state of our democracy. Instead of taking any corrective measure, the government has increased the tax burden on the common man. One minister (A Raja) is sacked on graft charges, but the other (Kapil Sibal) categorically refutes allegation of corruption against the government.
Swati: If it is so then what is A Raja doing in jail?
Yechury: That’s what we asked the government in Parliament, but we got no replies from it. We even cited the findings of the CAG in the 2G scam, but what happened? I think cracks have started appearing within the government. Their command structure is falling.
Swati: How was the command structure when you (Left) were with them?
Yechury: See, we were with them on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), which was the basis for running the government. At that time, the coordination between the PM and the Congress party was also very good. The PM looked after the issues related to the governance and the party looked after the problems related to coalition and the CMP. There was a fine balance between the two, which is missing now.
Swati: On the issue of CVC corruption and price rise, you seem to have joined hands with the BJP and others. Will this continue in future?
Yechury: On this issue, not only BJP but many other parties and to some extent, few Congress MPs have also supported us. There are many people in the Congress side, who have opposed giving a free run to those, who have plundered the nation’s wealth. The government did not concede to our demand for a JPC probe into the 2G scam, which led to the total washout of the Winter Session. They realised their mistake much later. Now, as members of JPC, we will press for passing such legislation, which will prevent the recurrence of big scams like the 2G in future.
Swati: After taking moral responsibility on the CVC issue, do you think the Prime Minister should now resign?
Yechury: There is no need for him to do so. It is just another way of shirking from your responsibilities. We want the Prime Minister to take corrective measures to avoid such things in future. He needs to listen to the concerns of the Opposition.
Swati: Assembly elections will be held in West Bengal, but the voters seem to have lost faith in the Buddhadeb’s government. How will you tackle this?
Yechury: There is no basis in your saying this. Buddha led our party’s campaign in the previous election and will continue to do so this time also.
Swati: Don’t you think that Left suffered huge losses at the hands of Trinamool Congress in the last Lok Sabha and municipal polls? What went wrong with your government in West Bengal?
Yechury: Yes, we agree to this. There were some problem with the governance; we failed to do our homework properly before implementing policy decisions. We failed to connect with the people. We had won the last election by a landslide so we were confident that people will accept all decisions the government takes. But we were wrong. We now have rectified our mistakes. Everyone, who works, commits mistakes.
Swati: Then how are you different from the PM?
Yechury: See, he has accepted his mistake but never taken any corrective measure. This is where we differ from him.
Swati: Do you think your party’s image as the ‘cluster of intellectuals’ has suffered badly after Jyoti Basu and Somnath’s ouster? What about Prakash Karat’s reputation as an arrogant person?
Yechury: It would have been great if the two stalwarts were with us today. But nature and age have different ways….We still learn from them. We still follow Jyoti babu’s advice that says go straight to the people and admit your mistakes. Regarding Karat ji, I don’t subscribe to your views.
Swati: Trinamool Congress blames you for the resurgence of Naxalism in West Bengal and you blame them. What you have to say about this?
Yechury: I agree that there have been some problems related to the governance and false rumours have been spread against the government by the Opposition. For example, it was said that government has forcibly acquired lands in Nandigram and Singur, but the truth is not even a single inch of land was snatched from the farmers. We have always fought against Naxalism since 1970s and forced them out of the state, but they are being transported back again to spread terror and win election against us.
Recently, a TMC MP Kabir Suman released a book exposing the nexus between the party and the Maoists. He even gave details of the meetings between top TMC leaders and the Naxals. The book revealed that the protests in Nandigram were planned by the TMC cadres. And now, a video has surfaced in which a top Naxal commander has revealed the links between the banned rebels and Mamata’s party. In the video, the Naxals have claimed that it was their sole aim to see Mamata Banerjee elected as the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
Swati: Will she become chief minister this time?
Yechury: (Laughs) Just before the counting of votes in the last assembly elections, she claimed that her next press conference will take place in the Writers Building, but everyone knows what happened. The electorate of West Bengal is politically mature to take correct decisions. It knows what is happening and who is behind the rising lawlessness and political killings. Three things are important for the people of West Bengal – strengthening of democratic institutions, development and peace - and we will try to uphold the same.
Swati: Do you think that CPI-M is about to lose its status as the national party?
Yehury: This is laughable. We are far ahead of the minimum requirement of 11 MPs from three states to be recognised as a national party. We have some 16 MPs from 3-4 states, so this will never happen.
Adapted by: Ritesh K Srivastava