Sitaram Yechury is General Secretary of CPI(M), the main constituent of the Left Front. The Left played a crucial role in the first part of the UPA government and was instrumental in formation of Manmohan Singh-led government.
In an interview to WION, Yechury spoke on a number of issues. He said that the idea of grand alliance before next year's general elections is not feasible and better alternative will emerge once results are out. He also spoke on the issue of foreign policy and West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Read the full interview below:
Question: Is the Left in same position to play the role which it did during formation of Manmohan Singh-led government?
Sitaram Yechury: In terms of number we are not in the same position as what we were during 2004 but irrespective of the strength, the Left has a critical role to play. We are also the voice of people and it cannot be ignored.
Question: Is grand alliance a feasible idea keeping in mind that multiple regional parties have diverse ideological ecosystem?
Sitaram Yechury: We have to understand the nature and character of India as a country. Indian politics has always been dominated by different parties in different regions. To conceive unity of all the opposition forces at the national level is neither feasible nor advisable. All the major Fronts were formed post elections - whether it was the case of VP Singh's government or United Front in 1996 or even UPA of 2004. Even 1977 went the same route and the question as to who would lead the government was settled after elections.
In current circumstances we will witness unity of parties on regional basis which would be done state wise. The example in case is Uttar Pradesh where SP-BSP came together. Anti-BJP coalitions will be formed at the state level which will converge post elections.
Question: So, what you are saying is that pre-poll grand alliance is not a feasible idea?
Sitaram Yechury: Grand alliance is not feasible before the elections. It all depends on what happens after polls. For example, the Left has a trademark of outside support. So, you will have various categories. Those joining the government and those supporting it from outside will happen at that point of time.
Question: Can we say that there exists ideological compatibility between Left and the Congress?
Sitaram Yechury: It cannot be said as our core ideology is different. On the other hand, Congress and BJP do share common interests when it comes to reforms. But today we need to fight against the communal forces, it is essential that the current government is ousted. To this limited objective, there will be cooperation with all the political forces.
Question: Does it include leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Chandra Shekhar Rao?
Sitaram Yechury: No. In West Bengal, we have a slogan, "Oust Modi to save India and oust Mamata to save Bengal." Both Mamata and BJP are playing politics in tandem.
Question: Why do you say that?
Sitaram Yechury: Both are going on the path of competitive communalism. Have you ever seen observance of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's death anniversary before this? Never. Why is it happening today? They want to control communal Hindutva vote bank. At the same Mamata Banerjee also panders to minority fundamentalism. More the minority fundamentalists are pampered, more Hindu communalisation takes place. They feed on each other. BJP and the Trinamool Congress feed on each other. It is essential that both are defeated.
Question: There can be no cooperation with the Trinamool Congress?
Sitaram Yechury: Trinamool Congress is a big no. Right now there can be no cooperation. Don't want to comment on post-poll scenario, we will see after elections.
Question: Are we going to witness broad alliances? One led by Left and Congress and another by TMC?
Sitaram Yechury: The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has nothing in West Bengal. The Telugu Desam Party and Trinamool Congress or the Telangana Rashtra Samiti are limited to their own states. Eventually, all cooperation will take place at the state level between major national forces.
Question: Has anti-Congress politics given way to anti-BJP politics because of the reduced electoral strength of the former?
Sitaram Yechury: No, not because of the reduced electoral strength. The BJP has actually replaced the Congress as the representatives of the ruling class of country. It is for this reason that pursuit of economic reforms is more aggressive under Modi than Manmohan Singh. India today has moved much closer to United States than ever.
Question: The BJP reinvented itself post-2014. What is Left doing under you to reinvent itself?
Sitaram Yechury: We are working on our organisation but in the meanwhile we will have to play the role of a catalyst to bring anti-BJP forces together on a rational platform. There we have a role to play.
Question: Black money deposits by Indians in Swiss banks have increased. Your comments?
Sitaram Yechury: It shows loot of public money which is being deposited in Swiss banks. Demonetisation has failed. It legitmised black money. RBI says that today more cash is flowing in the economy. The net result is that we have more money in the banking system than what existed before demonetisation. It has also led to increased capital outflow. It is also reflecting in sudden fall in the value of the rupee. The main reason of the depreciation of the rupee is the capital outflow which is being patronized by the government.
Question: How do you evaluate Modi's neighbourhood policy?
Sitaram Yechury: It has been a disaster. We alienated all of them. By trying to become a junior partner of the US, we sent signals that we want to curtail China. Why are we joining Malabar exercise with USA and Japan? What are the signals we are trying to give? Both in Maldives and Nepal, anti-India sentiments exist today.
Question: Course correction did take place... PM met Chinese premier in Wuhan?
Sitaram Yechury: We are part of the SCO where we will have joint exercise with Pakistan. The BJP has a strong position against Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir issue but they will hold joint exercise with Pakistan as being signatory to the SCO. Contradiction exists in our foreign policy. It was not course correction but pure vacillation. It increases the degree of uncertainty. What has happened to SAARC? Our relations with our own neighbours has deteriorated.
Question: What is your opinion on the current discourse where nationalism has become a stick to beat political opponents?
Sitaram Yechury: It has always been there, whether it's Hitler or Mussolini. It is exactly what is happening in India today where Hindutva nationalism is being forced. It has to be Indian nationalism.
Question: Are you saying that it is different from cultural nationalism?
Sitaram Yechury: There is nothing called cultural nationalism. You only have nationalism in the nation's interest. Nation has been defined by our Constitution. Nationalism is upholding of the provisions of the Constitution. What is being done today in the name of Hindutva nationalism is negation of the Constitution.
Question: Why is there no conversation between PM and opposition?
Sitaram Yechury: It is very sad. This is where degree of hostility should be understood. The BJP is implementing undeclared institutionalised Emergency. They have undermined every parliamentary institution including Election Commission and judiciary. I would also say that even research bodies have been affected. I have never seen such a House. There is no cordiality in the House.
Question: Historically, Third Front or big alliances either had a face or many big faces. This time there is none?
Sitaram Yechury: No one believed in 2004 that Manmohan Singh would become the Prime Minister. No one thought about Morarji Desi or Deve Gowda. This is the parliamentary democracy.
Question: Is Rahul Gandhi an acceptable face?
Sitaram Yechury: These issues are not relevant now. These issues will become relevant post elections. This will have to be evaluated after the elections. Back then, when asked about Manmohan Singh, I had said that Finance Minister of Congress would behave differently as Prime Minister of the coalition government as it would follow Common Minimum Programme (CMP). What India requires is policies and not leaders. We need alternative policies.
Question: In retrospection, was it correct on part of CPI(M) to leave UPA?
Sitaram Yechury: We failed to convey the message and could not make it into a people's issue which cost us electorally. We also permitted cementing of our political opponents in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress and Congress came together. These issues have been noted.
Question: Your alliance with Congress in assembly elections did not work...
Sitaram Yechury: It was a mere understanding. We did not come together as alliance partners. We could not create the impression of a proper alternative in people's mind.
Question: Will you come together this time if there is a proposal from the Congress?
Sitaram Yechury: Yes, we will. This time we decided that our primary objective is to defeat this government in West Bengal and to this objective we will work.
Question: Will Sitaram Yechury play the role of Har Kishan Surjit in 2019?
Sitaram Yechury: Please don't make these comparisons, our objective is to oust the BJP from power.
Question: In case the opposition is able to form the government in 2019, will Left be part of it with ministers?
Sitaram Yechury: Our party programme is clear that if any such possibility emerges then Central Committee will make the final call. It will also depend on what is the proposition and what is the CMP. That is why I said that our trademark or intellectual property right has been outside support.
Question: Can it be changed?
Sitaram Yechury: Our party programme permits, but this has been our historical trademark.