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The A B Bardhan Chat

An hour before he was supposed to appear on The Rediff Chat on Wednesday, November 26, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan called in to say that the prime minister had summoned an urgent meeting of the United Front core committee and hence he needed to be excused from the event. He promised to call and fix another date.

A day before the United Front government recommended dissolution of Parliament, Bardhan called in and said he would appear on The Rediff Chat on Friday. The Communist leader was at the CyberClub ahead of time -- and befitting a politician who has acquired a reputation for calm, rational discussion he held his audience in thrall throughout the Chat.

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:17 IST)
Hello Everybody

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:53 IST)
Hello everybody. I am here to answer your questions.

Aditi Banerjee (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:54 IST)
Mr Bardhan, after the two week fiasco at the Centre and elections being announced subsequently, how do you assess the political equation? Who do you think will the next to govern India?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:59 IST)
Aditi Banerjee: I would not call it a fiasco at the Centre. I think the UF government took every principled position when it resigned within half an hour of the Congress withdrawing support which had made it a minority government. We asked the President to spend minimum time for exploring any alternative government. But made it clear that not a single UF party would support either a BJP-led government or a Congress-led government. The two parties -- the Congress and the BJP -- could not muster a majority either by splitting the UF or by organising defections in the Congress which the BJP tried. There remained no option but to dissolve the Lok Sabha and go in for a fresh election. In a democracy, the people have the final say. I think the UF has a prestige and its principled approach has been appreciated. We therefore hope to come back with a majority this time so that we do not have to depend on the whims and caprices of any supporting party. This hope is based on our solid unity and our record.

Rakhi (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:55 IST)
Hi everyone, Mr Bardhan sir do you think that the elections will give a decisive majority to one party?? If yes which one sir?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:3 IST)
Rakhi: I do not think any single party can come in a majority. We have entered an era of coalition politics at the Centre. It can either be the UF which is a coalition including the Left parties, regional parties and other centrist parties or it can be a BJP-led coalition. The main struggle will be between these two. The BJP has recently got a little discredited because of its open advocacy of defection and horse-trading. It created a record of sorts in Lucknow through defections and rewarding every defector with a ministerial post apart from other inducements. It openly tried the same in Delhi, though without success. Therefore, I think the coalition of the UF has a fair chance. In this the Congress will be a bad third.

Shekhar (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:0 IST)
Mr Bardhan, Everyone says the BJP is the most favoured party. But sir how will it get the majority?? The equations don't match!

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:6 IST)
Shekhar: I do not know who is everyone that you are talking of. Let me point out that even today the UF constituent parties have ten chief ministers, that is to say, the government in ten states. The BJP is only in five states and that too as coalition partners. Therefore, we have a certain edge.

Vladmir Illich Ulyanov (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:55 IST)
Is Comrade Bardhan here? If he is, I would just like to ask him this: Do the people of India deserve this? Could no compromise have been found? Could the Front not have convinced the DMK to step aide and avoid an election? Today, we have to spend Rs 7 billion on an election that no one except the Left front wants!

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:13 IST)
Vladmir: Certainly, the Indian people deserve better. But no compromise could take place because the condition which the Congress as a supporting party insisted upon was to throw the DMK out. We did not agree to this. It was an unjustified and unwarranted demand. There is no indictment as such in the Jain report. It is only a hue and cry raised by the Congress. Besides, there is an unsubstantiated accusation against the entire Tamil people saying that they had a sympathetic nexus with the LTTE. To accept the Congress demand for compromise would have meant accepting the sweeping conclusion about the Tamil people as well as the DMK. This would have been a direct attack on our own national unity. We prefer to sacrifice the government rather than jeopardise national unity. Besides, the UF is based on mutual trust and confidence. If we drop one party because somebody else demands it, tomorrow the demand may be to drop another party. The unity of the Front itself would be affected.

Aditi Banerjee (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:0 IST)
Sir, don't you think the BJP has emerged stronger in this political drama? Won't the people give the BJP a chance this time because there is such a dearth of leadership. There is no political leader that can match the stature of A B Vajpayee -- hasn't the BJP scored this time?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:8 IST)
Aditi: I do not think the BJP has emerged stronger. Rather, it has come out as a party which has thrown all political morals and principles to the winds by trying to come to power through organising defections. The Indian voter is mature and will certainly consider this record apart from whatever they have to say about the BJP's aggressive communal politics.

Ho Chi Minh (Fri Dec 5 1997 7:57 IST)
Comrade Bardhan, Lal Salaam! Do you or do you not believe the DMK helped the LTTE. Judge Jain has said the DMK passed off messages from the central government to the LTTE. Now, this is a very serious charge. Your comment please!

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:22 IST)
Ho Minh: For quite sometime, the Congress governments themselves had helped the LTTE. They arrange camps, provided arms and also funds. They used both the AIDMK and then the DMK governments in Tamil Nadu as conduits. They even asked the DMK government to mediate with the LTTE when the IPKF was sacrificing in the fields of Sri Lanka. Has Justice Jain anything to say about all this? He is very selective in his approach and deliberately leaves out those facts which do not sustain his conclusions. But the point is we are concerned with the consequences leading to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Let me remind that when the DMK was in power, Rajiv Gandhi visited Tamil Nadu 8 times and returned safely. He was killed much later when there was President's rule in Tamil Nadu. So how does it tie up? One cannot either directly or indirectly connect the DMK with Rajiv's killing. There is a case investigated by the special investigating team on Rajiv's assassination and 41 people are accused. Not one of them is a DMK member. So how does this get explained? At the time of his assassination, it was a Congress election meeting. Arrangements were made by them and the security cover provided to Rajivji. There was no DMK anywhere there. What happened to Congress responsibility? Also note that 17 policemen died along with Rajivji, but not one Congressman. How do you explain this? You should not be carried away by a false hue and cry.

Nehru (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:18 IST)
The BJP will sweep the 1998 election. Wanna bet, Mr Bardhan? What happens then?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:24 IST)
Nehru: Well, if you are a confirmed BJP voter, or supporter I have nothing to say. You have a right to be so. But do not think that others think the same as you do. And I can tell you that I am in no betting game. That can be left to you and others.

Fred Engels (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:11 IST)
Sir, the UF has done quite well. But is needs to clarify its position on corruption and the economic reforms right now. Will tickets be given to charged persons? Will you support reforms, such as the insurance bill?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:31 IST)
Fred Engels:Thank you for the compliment. The UF and especially the Left parties within it are committed to fight corruption. You know we were responsible for even charging Laloo in the animal husbandry scam. He was in the Front, but that did not prevent us when we saw that there was a clear prima facie case against him. It is now for the courts to decide and give their verdict. The UF government ministers have not been involved in any scam during all these 18 months. All deals and agreements have been transparent. As to reforms, we are not for those reforms which do not benefit the people or strengthen our self-reliant path of development. We are not against the private sector. India needs the private sector to grow. But for this, it is not necessary to demolish the existing public sector. The insurance bill is one way of bringing in the private sector in this field where our public sector -- LIC and GIC -- are doing quite well. They have a programme of helping the rural people, farmers and so forth. I do not think any private insurance company will go in to these sectors because they are not very profit-yielding.

C R Rao (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:29 IST)
Ardhendu: This is Rajeswara here. Tell me, was there no way out of the crisis except an election? Why did the talks fail? Why could you not have agreed to Mr Kesri's POV that an eminent person's group study the allegations? What was wrong with that? At least, we could have avoided an election?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:37 IST)
C R Rao: I assure you we were not itching for an election. Why should we when we were already in power. But as I answered another question, we could not have reached a compromise with Congress on the basis of an unjustified, unfair and unethical demand for dropping the DMK ministers. It seems strange that individuals and parties not connected with the assassination should be hounded out because it suits somebody's political desires. As to appointing another judge or jurist to sit in judgement over them and certify whether they were guilty or not would mean accepting that they are prima facie guilty. Nobody would agree to such a position. Did the Congress agree to such a method when the Thakkar Commission named Shri R K Dhawan as a person responsible for Indira Gandhi's assassination? They had an inter-government investigation and came to the conclusion that he was innocent. This gentleman is now sitting in the Congress Working Committee and is one of their general secretaries.

ravi (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:7 IST)
Mr. Bardhan, My question pertains to alliances in general. Post election alliances are an insult to the people. This essentially violates the people's mandate. Only pre-election alliances should be recognised. Post election alliances breed trading and power brokering and violates the mandate that the people have given. Your opinion Sir?, and in this context will the UF approach the electorate together for a change.

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:43 IST)
Ravi: In the last elections, there was no pre-election front on a national scale. But there were state fronts and it is these which came together eventually at the national level when no single party had a majority. You may recall that the President had invited the BJP first. This government lasted only 13 days. As to the Congress, it was also in no position to form a government. It had the political compulsion of extending support to the Front. That is the truth. Now we have a Front and I assure you that we will enter this election as a Front with a common appeal. As to horse-trading and power-brokering, no such thing was done while forming the UF and its government. Nor any time during the one and a half year it has been in power. The only party that has indulged in wholesale horse-trading is the BJP in UP and had declared openly that it would do the same in Delhi. Of course on a much larger scale. These are also facts. Shri Vajpayee openly called for defection in the Congress. Shri Advani even mentioned that 40 had agreed to defect, but they needed 7 more to legalise the defection. Have you heard of any such things in connection with the UF?

Josef Vissarovich (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:22 IST)
Good evening, Bardhanbabu. I don't think the Communists were as influential in any administration as it was in this govt. What has been the experience of being part of government? Has Mr Gupta and Mr Mishra been satisfied with what they have achieved?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:49 IST)
Josef: Well, both the Communist ministers have done reasonably well. Mr Mishra introduced many schemes which benefit the farmers. Mr Gupta chaired the inter-state council which has gone a long way towards normalising centre-state relations which has been a much-vexed question in Indian politics. He was poised for undertaking police reforms. But meanwhile this crisis has overtaken the government.

V I Ulyanov (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:32 IST)
Even if it a hung Parliament, I believe parties like the AGP will veer towards the BJP, rather than the Front. As Advani told the President, some parties have madame a mistake and want to amend that mistake!

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:53 IST)
Ulyanov: I assure you there was no worry about any constituent of the Front breaking away and forming a government with the Congress. All that was media imagination and disinformation spread by Congress sources themselves. The UF core committee was continuously in session and all its decisions about the response to Congress letters and moves were thoroughly discussed and unanimous. In some cases, there was impatience but never any desire to break away.

V I Ulyanov (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:42 IST)
Will the UF be united, come election time? Or will it crumble soon enough? Mulayam Singh is already making threatening noises? So has the TMC.

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:45 IST)
Ulyanov: The UF is united and will remain so. Please note that both the parties which you have mentioned have given this in writing to the President along with the others. They have certain points to make, but this does not mean that they are going out of the Front. Therefore, the UF will not crumble as you apprehend.

ravi (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:47 IST)
Mr. Bardhan Sir. Peer into your crystal ball. Tell us whay you see for India around March 1998 ..

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:50 IST)
Ravi: I am no crystal gazer nor a psephologist which some claim to be. But I see reasonable chances of the UF forming a government around March 1998.

ravikc (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:52 IST)
Mr. Bardhan: My question is: To what do you attribute CPI's lack of base in most of India. Communism is can't be a bad word to the weaker sections of the country.

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:58 IST)
ravk k c: You can attribute it to the prevalence of feudal and semi-feudal thinking in the vast Hindi belt and also to our own weaknesses in building mass movements, mass organisations and developing a political mass base. In India Communism is certainly not a bad word among the weaker sections nor even amongst the intellectuals. That is why the Communist movement in India did not suffer after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It did not become irrelevant in the Indian situation. But every movement has uneven development and growth. Therefore, if we are reasonably strong in some places, we are unfortunately extremely weak in many other places. I hope this unevenness will disappear with whatever progress we make.

ravin (Fri Dec 5 1997 8:55 IST)
Sir, What do you thin of Mr. Chandrababu Naidu ? His stock has risen very quickly .. For someone who hasnt been CM for long he is making a huge difference in AP. Does he have a chance to emerge as the consensus choice for PM ?

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 9:0 IST)
Ravi: As the convener of the Front, Chandrababu Naidu has done an excellent job. I am all praise for him. He is a young man who is gaining experience very fast. As to the future prime minister, we do not propose to speculate in advance on any name. We can solve that when the need arises. After all it did not take us long on the past two occasions and I visualise no difficulty in the future as well.

Mr A B Bardhan (Fri Dec 5 1997 9:3 IST)
Good Bye everybody. It was an enjoyable Chat and I welcome the pointed and frank questions that you asked. I hope you will appreciate the frankness with which I replied. No holds-barred either way. Let us hope for the best. In democracy it is the people who will decide. The Indian voter has proved his maturity so often. It will do so this time as well. Therefore, over to the people. THAT IS ALL I SAY.