ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 2016: ‘Congress-RSS match-fixing in Kerala’

KERALA,C. GOURIDASAN NAIR: Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who has been campaigning in Kerala over the past few days, sees a clandestine deal between the Congress leadership in the State and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) so that the United Democratic Front government can retain power in the State. He tells C. Gouridasan Nair that the Congress should clarify its stand on what the local leadership is trying to do since, in Congress Working Committee member A.K. Antony’s words, the party is “the fulcrum of anti-communal forces in the country”.

Excerpts from an interview:

This election is seen as being very crucial for the Left. Your comment?

This is an important election not just for the Left but also for Kerala. You have seen in these past five years, things that were never normally associated with Kerala. Governments in Kerala, whether controlled by the LDF [Left Democratic Front] or the UDF [United Democratic Front], always had a yardstick of cleanliness, that of providing a clean government. Now, that has suffered a severe jolt during the past five years. You have never heard of such corruption in the past. In fact, in Delhi, the joke used to be that thanks to the Left, [the] Congress is not corrupt in Kerala, because they had to compete with the Left. That used to be the general perception when the 2G scam and the CWG scam were being debated. But that perception is completely shattered now. This is bad for the State, and more for the people.

We, of course, have attached great importance to this election. That is why we took a conscious decision to go to the people directly and in absolute unity. I think, to a large extent in the campaign, we have succeeded in remaining a cohesive force. That should have its dividends.

The talk in the State is that the Congress has struck a deal with the RSS to return to power. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement that the fight in some places is between the UDF and the BJP has only strengthened this feeling. What is your take on this?

They are finding it very difficult to retain power in Kerala. I think, therefore, the local leadership here is working on a deal with the RSS to retain power and that is the danger. That is why I have been appealing to the people to rise above this match-fixing and elect the LDF with such margins that whatever clandestine things they do, they will not succeed. What is happening here does not gel with what Mr. Antony said the other day, that they want to keep Kerala RSS-BJP free. He also went to the extent of saying that the Congress is the fulcrum of anti-communal forces in the country. Now that doesn’t gel at all at the ground level with what is being done by the local Congress leadership, especially the Chief Minister. That is very clear.

The Congress leadership should explain whether there is any difference of opinion between them, or whether they are playing in tandem. What are they really up to in Kerala? Mr. Chandy’s is pure opportunism to retain power.

Won’t that have an impact on the perception of the minorities? Traditionally, they have rallied behind the UDF rather than the LDF…

I think there is a large degree of introspection among the minorities in Kerala. This sort of a thing being done by the Congress cannot obviously be acceptable to them. If the Congress thinks that it can return to power by striking a deal with the RSS-BJP even as they retain minority support, I think both cannot happen at the same time.

So there will be a lot of rethinking, and they must remember that in 2004, we got 18 out of 20 seats when it was clear that the Left was in the forefront of stopping the return of the Vajpayee government. And that is what eventually happened after the elections. The Left played the crucial role. And then in the 2006 elections, we had a large section of minorities rallying behind us. They gave us a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. I think you cannot take anybody for granted in Kerala, definitely not the minorities. They see who is doing what. I think the threat of Modi government is very palpable.

This is for the first time you are actually having an official government patronage for these hate campaigns by their own Ministers and MPs, and there is no action by the PM. It is very clear that the country is going down the path of the RSS vision of Hindu Rashtra. Nobody, forget the minorities, born secular and democratic in India can take this lying down.

The BJP is making a huge pitch in Kerala…

They have found a vulnerable Achilles’ heel in Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. That is why they are making huge bid in the State.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scathing in his attack on the Left during his speeches here, accusing it of having unleashed terror and violence…

Mr. Modi and the RSS see the Left is their prime target because we are the only force that can resist the attempts by the RSS to communally polarise society and gain from it. They see the Left not only as a political opposition but also a force that will resist their terror and intimidation. We take the hit because we are the advance guard there.

The RSS very correctly reckons that if we are weakened, there will be no other really formidable force to prevent the communalising of Kerala society to their advantage. Their game had worked in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, but not in Kerala. Mr. Modi knows this. That is why he attacks us.

But we will resolutely defend secularism and fight this menace.

Will these elections see a revival of the Left?

We will consolidate our position in Kerala. In Bengal, it has been a very extraordinary situation where you had virtually a people’s urge for restoration of democracy and civil rule, and rejection of the politics of terror, intimidation and violence. So that is what led to various forces coming together there. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s RJD, Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Deve Gowda’s JD(S), who were all at one time talking about the federal front suggested by Mamata, joined the Left Front in this fight.

Apart from the pressure from below, that forced the Congress also to come in there. By coming together we have sent out a message in Bengal. We, the Left, being the primary force opposing all that was happening during the last five years, do see that our credibility has risen.

Post-elections, you are going to confront the question of leadership in Kerala. What do you plan to do about it?

We have said this time and again and I mean it very sincerely, this is an issue which we will take up for discussion and decide post-elections. Right now, we are in this battle. We want to win this battle. We think winning this battle is important, both for Kerala and for the Left. Let us do this.

After elections, we will sit down and there will be no problem, I can assure you that.