INTERVIEW | 'INDIA' has come together to save Republic, says Sitaram Yechury

State-specific alliance will be formed to deny BJP the advantage of a vote split in the 2024 general election, says CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
FILE - An image of CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, used for representational purposes only. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - An image of CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, used for representational purposes only. (Photo | PTI)

The INDIA bloc will focus on state-specific tie-ups among allies in order to deny the BJP the advantage of a vote split in the 2024 general election. The opposition parties have come together to preserve the character of the Republic of India, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tells Parvez Sultan.

Excerpts from the conversation...
The next meeting of INDIA is due on August 31. There are reports about the appointment of a convener of the coalition, setting up a secretariat and drafting a common minimum programme. What do you think is the road ahead for the alliance?

The alliance is generating confidence among people. There are issues on which all opposition parties are together. These include basic things such as preserving the character of our republic – we have a secular democratic republic. The rights guaranteed by the Constitution have to be protected. That is our basic objective. The common minimum programme normally comes only after the government is formed. It is never drafted before the election. But, surely, there are some common issues that we will take to the people during our campaign. The secretariat or the other way of coordination will be discussed in Mumbai. It is not necessary to have a secretariat, convener or anything. We will discuss how to go about the coordination among alliance partners.

You have been talking about state-specific seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha elections. Please elaborate…

The idea of seat-sharing is to minimise the advantage the BJP gets by the division in opposition votes. In Kerala, we are in a direct fight with the Congress. The BJP doesn’t get a single MLA elected there, forget about an MP. So the Left and the Congress fighting against each other does not give any advantage to the BJP, which is completely out of the picture. In West Bengal, the Left, Congress and the other secular forces fighting against the BJP and TMC (Trinamool Congress) weaken the BJP. Suppose, all of us get together against the BJP in West Bengal, all the anti-incumbency advantage goes to the BJP. A triangular fight in West Bengal will minimise the BJP advantage. So we will have to look at all the states differently.

There are deep divisions between some of the alliance partners. Do you think all the parties will be able to work together?

I think the people will keep us together. It is the people’s pressure that has brought us all together. The Emergency was defeated because of the support of the people. The Vajpayee government was defeated for the same reason. The same will happen to this government. And it will be very difficult for any opposition party to betray the wishes of the people.

The CPM strength in Parliament has come down significantly. What was the reason for the decline and what are you doing to shore up the numbers?

The reasons are plenty. There was a huge gang up -- from right to left -- against us. But this is one factor. There are also some lapses on our part. The result is that our electoral support has significantly declined. But at the same time, our ability to set an agenda before the country has actually strengthened… the setting of an agenda through popular struggles. The only issue on which PM Modi had to back off was the farmers’ struggle against the three bills. The bills were withdrawn… the only thing he (PM) was forced to withdraw was through the struggles. The pace of privatisation of the public sector units is getting retarded only because of the struggle of the working class through our movement. So the role of the Left is to set the national agenda through popular struggles. But electorally, what you are saying is right. That has to be corrected and we are working on it.

You recently visited Manipur. How have things come to such a pass that one section is demanding a separate state?

The situation is terrible. I have never seen things like this in my life anywhere in the country. Virtually, it is two countries in one state. We went to both areas — the Meitei and Kuki sides. If you have to go into the Kuki area from the Meitei side, no Meitei is allowed with you. We had to leave behind our own party secretary, a Meitei, when we visited the Kuki areas. The same thing happens when you enter the Meitei area. There are two separate regions. It is virtually a war-like situation. When you cross over from one side to the other, there are three levels of barricading, manned by locals, not by security forces.

There is a sort of dehumanisation of people and society happening in the state. The ‘double-engine sarkar’ (the government led by the BJP both at the Centre and in the state) has a big role in creating this ethnic conflict. It supported Kuki militant groups in the elections. They (Kuki) themselves have come on record saying they had a deal with the Assam chief minister and the northeast BJP in-charge. Kuki militants have claimed that N Biren Singh has become chief minister of Manipur because 
of their support to the BJP.

Out of 10 Kuki MLAs, seven are from BJP and two are ministers. However, the chief minister says all Kukis are illegal immigrants from Myanmar. The home minister repeated it in the Lok Sabha. So, the Kukis are now saying you seek support from us to win elections and then call us illegal migrants and narco-terrorists.

Now, the Nagas have also entered the scene. They say that this violence is happening in the land of Nagas. The Naga Accord has a lot to do with land in Manipur. If the fire is not doused, things can go beyond their (government) control. Mizoram is also affected. If the government is not able to quickly handle the issue, it will spill over to the entire northeast. The conditions in relief camps are appalling -- be it food or sanitation. Children are being born there with no immunisation programme and no nutritious food.

What are the immediate steps the government should for a permanent solution to the problem?

There are 60,000 Central security personnel there, but they don’t have directions about what needs to be done. Had the government given clear directions, much of the violence could have been contained. The government should send an all-party delegation under the leadership of the home minister to meet every section of the people of Manipur, listen to their grievances and try to work out a solution as per their wishes. We have been saying this since day one. I have been part of such a delegation thrice to Kashmir with Shivraj Patil, P Chidambaram and Rajnath Singh. On all three occasions, we tried to move towards some solutions. Why are they (the government) not doing the same now?

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