Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan, popularly known as VS,is turning 90 on Sunday. The Opposition Leader is the only surviving comrade among the 32 central committee members who walked out of the undivided CPI to form the CPM after ideological schism rocked the Left movement in 1964. The ever-defiant communist patriarch has always been in news for his penchant for opening many war fronts simultaneously and fighting like a one-man army. Even on the very eve of turning 90, VS is not mincing words on various organisational issues, though the CPM Politburo has forbidden him from making any public statement that will show the party in a poor light. Excerpts from an exclusive interview he gave to Express.
Q. Voters in Kerala are known to shift loyalties to the UDF and LDF in each election. But in 2011, the electorate had apparently wished to give the LDF another chance but you lost by a narrow margin of three seats. Do you still believe that the CPM's state leadership didn't want to retain power?
A: There were lapses in the choice of candidates. In many of the seats, including sitting seats, we fielded candidates without taking social realities into account. In Thrissur district we lost two sitting seats only because of the wrong choice of candidates. In a constituency like Vattiyurkavu where the Nair community has a majority, a candidate like Cheiryan Philip, who had already been defeated in four elections, was fielded to gift the seat to K Muralidharan.
Q: In Kannur district, a traditional Left bastion, the LDF lost five seats.
A: The defeat in Kannur also has to be seen in this light. The main reason for the defeat was that we couldn't work in unison to ensure victory. A self-critical analysis should have taken place.
Q: Most of the politicians would normally think of retirement on reaching 90. You have been in politics for over seven decades. Are you thinking about retirement?
A: No, I'll be with this movement till my last breath.
Q: On the Madhav Gadgil report, your party is taking a different course and sharing the views of the ruling front?
A: The Gadgil report was prepared after scientifically assessing the prevailing conditions in Western Ghats. The governments at the Centre and the state are opposing it and preferring the Kasturirangan report. But the Kasturirangan report will not help the cause of conserving Western Ghats. In fact, those who are opposing the Gadgil report have not read it.
Q: The Politburo commission has conducted a sitting over your complaints against the state leadership. The party's state committee had demanded that you should be removed as the Opposition Leader. Are you hopeful of a favourable decision from the Politburo?
A: I have made my stand clear. Now everything is before the Politburo. Let it take a decision.
Q: Do you still defend your visit to the house of T P Chandrasekharan on the day of the Neyyattinkara by-election?
A: The murder of Chandrasekharan was a brutal act which shocked the social psyche of the the state. The gruesome murder had created a feeling that the CPM is a party of murderers. I felt it was important to console Chandrsekharan's widow, teenaged son and aged mother. It was necessary to assuage the feelings of the people as well as party sympathisers.
Q: But you went to TP's house on the very day of the Neyyattinkara by-poll.
A: Yes, but later I realised that the timing was wrong. I could have avoided the visit on the day of the by-election. I have admitted this to the party.
Q: The CPM is turning 50 next year. Can you say the purpose for which you and 31 other senior comrades walked out of the CPI in 1964 to launch the CPM has been met?
A: Our purpose has been completely materialised. It was out of our strong conviction that we should fight the right-wing aberration of the Communist Party under S A Dange's leadership that we quit the party. Later we fought against Naxalist adventurism. In the past fifty years, the CPM could lead a massive democratic movement which translated many of the aspirations of the people into reality.
Q: You have made it clear that the LDF wouldn't take P C George back to its fold. But going by George's recent criticism of the government, one would think that he had already received the go-ahead from the LDF.
A: We have been playing the role of a responsible Opposition. We like to have parties which are ideologically like-minded. If we re-induct George he may try to repeat his antics which we cannot allow.
Q: After creating a history of sorts by parading around one lakh people for the Secretariat siege calling for the Chief Minister's resignation over the solar scam, the LDF abruptly withdrew the stir, surprising many. Can you blame any one if he or she says that the Opposition had entered into a behind- the-curtain pact with the government?
A: In fact, the government was hoodwinking the Opposition by offering to conduct a judicial probe which will have Oommen Chandy and his office under its purview. At that stage, the Left leadership took a decision to withdraw the stir as the situation warranted it. It was natural for the people to get frustrated for calling off the stir before achieving their goal.
Q: What about the efforts on Left unity?
A: We have been successful in keeping the Left forces in one front. One section of the Janata Dal led by M P Veerendrakumar had left the front after the last Lok Sabha elections. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the Left could win 18 seats and the Congress couldn't win even a single seat. I want all democratic and secular forces to regroup.
Q: Recent surveys say the NDA would emerge as the largest coalition. The Congress is no way near putting up a brave front. And a Third Front doesn't have many takers.
A: Secular and democratic forces should join hands to keep the Congress and BJP at bay. However, the CPM wouldn't mind supporting the Congress to keep the BJP away from power. The BJP is our main enemy.
Q: There have been many allegations against you including the one questioning your claims of having participated in the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising.
A: It is part of concerted efforts to discredit me. It was during the first party conference held in Kozhikode that comrade P Krishna Pillai asked me to go to Kuttanad and work among the paddy workers. He told me that the stir would get strong support from small-time farmers and farm workers. I organised the workers of Kottayam, Kumarakom, Aryad, Mannancherry who had been toiling for paltry wages. Leaders such as K V Pathrose personally supervised preparations for the uprising. The front-line leaders need not die in an uprising. Did Kumara Panicker die in the uprising? Did Vladimir Lenin who led the Russian revolution from the front die during the revolution? I was arrested from Poonjar as I had been asked to move to Poonjar.
Q: What about writing an autobiography?
A: It may happen some time later.