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The D Raja Chat

D Raja is an Indian success story. Born in a family of landless agricultural workers in Tamil Nadu, he became the first graduate -- in mathematics, mind you! -- in his village and has now risen to become the Communist Party of India's national secretary, a leader much sought after for his clarity of views. Read on for a well-informed and pleasant chat.

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 7:52 IST)
Hello everybody good evening. It is a great pleasure to interact with you. I am here to respond to your questions. Not just to answer your queries but to understand your concerns, anxieties over the political developments in India. Let us begin.

Swami Aiyer (Wed Jan 21 1998 7:44 IST)
Mr Raja: Don't you think the United Front is not at all united any more? Who is to be blamed?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:0 IST)
Swami Iyer: I don't agree with your argument. The United Front remains united. You don't have to blame anybody, but you have to appreciate all the constituents for having remained united all through the crisis. They remain united now and they are facing the elections unitedly as a front. The UF had faced certain challenging critical situations. One was immediately after the 1996 election. The UF as a coalition was formed. How this coalition would come to power and perform was a challenge. It was the political acumen of the various leaders of constituents of the Front that the UF could evolve a common minimum programme for its performance. Then there was a challenge in electing a leader for the Front. Without any difficulty Mr H D Deve Gowda was elected as leader of the coalition and the PM. When the Congress which was supporting the government from outside decided to withdraw its support to the Deve Gowda government the UF faced a challenge and remained together. After the fall of the Deve Gowda government the UF had to elect a new leader. That time also the UF remained together and elected Mr Gujral as the leader and PM. Once again when the Congress withdrew support the UF did not break up. It remained together. Even when Mr Gujral had to resign, the UF remained together. After the dissolution of Parliament when the country is a facing mid-term poll the UF remains united.

Shyam (Wed Jan 21 1998 7:46 IST)
Dear Mr Raja, The Left parties were often being blamed for dictating terms to the UF government, which caused many hiccups in government. What do you have to say about it?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:5 IST)
Shyam: The Left parties never tried to dictate terms to the UF government. But the Left parties played a very constructive role in the functioning of the UF as a ruling coalition and its government. Yes, the Left parties were initiators of the UF, builders of the UF and unifiers of the UF. So the Left parties felt that they were equally responsible for the policies and performance of the UF government. And the Left do represent the interests of the toiling masses of our country. Definitely the Left parties wanted the government to initiate and implement more pro-people and more pro-poor measures which have been already mentioned in the CMP. That way the Left parties played a very positive role in the work of the UF and the government. So the Left cannot be blamed for any failure on the part of the government. The Left had criticism at times -- that criticism was not negative. It was positive, constructive criticism.

Mira (Wed Jan 21 1998 7:46 IST)
Hello sir, Despite supporting the UF government, you did nothing to tone down the pace of economic reforms. How do you think you can justify that to your constituents?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:19 IST)
Mira: The economic reforms should be understood in a proper perspective. When the liberalisation policies were introduced at the time of Rajiv Gandhi government, then at the time of the Narasimha Rao government in a full fledged way, the Left parties did oppose these policies, because the liberalisation globalisation and privatisation policies have not helped the country to achieve self reliant economic growth. They have not benefited the poor people of our country. We can say that only a tiny 10% of the upper layer of our society could benefit and the 90% of the people got nothing so the country has to face poverty, unemployment and price rise and other connected problems. When the UF came to power and the Left became part of the UF, we tried to shift the thrust of the economic reforms. We wanted to change the direction and orientation of the economic reforms in the larger interest of the nation and the toiling people. So we wanted economic growth with social justice. With this understanding we tried to influence the economic policies and we can say there were and there are compulsions and pressures from the World Bank, IMF and WTO that India should accept their model of economic reforms. Since the Left parties are part of the UF we have been protesting when the question of reforms in the finance sector came. Particularly, when the privatisation of the insurance sector came to the agenda the Left parties took a very firm stand not to allow it. And we also didn't agree for total capital convertibility. And we also didn't agree with the reforms in public sector industries. Because the way it was understood was not in accordance with the perspective that was mentioned in the CMP. The perspective was to reform the public sector, not to deform and dismantle the public sector. The public sector was and is the backbone of our economy. The Left parties do not deny the role of the private sector in the Indian economy, but privatisation of existing public sector undertakings doesn't mean reforms.In fact in India the private sector should really be a public sector because it operates on public money. If you see the contribution of private capital in any private company it is minuscule; the rest comes from public organisations. On all these questions, the Left parties had their say and tried to give a new direction and orientation to the reforms.

Mohandeep (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:16 IST)
How are you Mr Raja? If the BJP were to actually emerge as the single largest party, do you see the possibility of any UF constituent breaking off and supporting it?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:26 IST)
Mohandeep: First of all, it is a very hypothetical question. Still we believe that the BJP has no chance of coming to power. The secular forces are capable of defeating the BJP. Because the BJP's coming to power means disaster to a nation like ours with its diversities. The BJP is a threat to the unity and integrity of the country which has many nationalities, ethnic groups, languages, diverse historical and cultural backgrounds. If such a party comes to power, this is again of assumption. The UF will not break up. I don't except any constituent to change its allegiance in support of the BJP. Such a situation will give new vigour and resolve to the UF constituent parties to fight the communal forces in order to uphold secularism and federalism which are the basic features of India's Republic and the Constitution.

Venkat (Wed Jan 21 1998 7:53 IST)
While die hard Chinese Communists are bringing capitalism into their country, why are you foolish Indian so-called 'Leftists' still hanging around old, unproductive, anti-development Communism.

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:32 IST)
Venkat: I did not expect Indians living abroad to be so foolish to put such a question after having been exposed to a larger world. What the Chinese do is for them to judge whether it is in the interest of China or not. As the Indian Left we cannot and we do not copy anybody whether Chinese or Russian. We want the policies and the programmes which suit the Indian situation and which help the Indian people. There is nothing unproductive or old in our approach. We look forward to an Indian path of development. We are striving for it. We are not such fools to advise because some people are doing certain things we also do it. We'll do what helps our people and our country.

arun (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:2 IST)
if UF comes to power will you again recall Mr DEVE GOWDA as PM or is it going to be Mr I K GUJRAL or someone else (like Mr JYOTI BASU)?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:37 IST)
Arun: Parliamentary democracy in India has entered into a new phase or new era, in which coalition governments have come to stay at the Centre. In this era you have to project policies, programmes and manifestos of the political parties. NOT INDIVIDUALS. The UF has no dearth of leaders. We are projecting a collective leadership which is a new stage of development and maturity of our democracy. The BJP's projection of Vajpayee shows its desperation and lack of policies. It has no constructive agenda. The BJP thinks it can sell Vajpayee in the market. But nobody is there to buy that commodity.

Madan Jain (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:30 IST)
Sir, Will the Left participate in government if the UF were to come to power?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:40 IST)
Madan Jain: Yes, the Left parties will participate in the UF government. Already, all the four Left parties -- namely the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the All India Forward Bloc, the Revolutionary Socialist Party -- are part of the UF. The CPI is in the government, the CPI-M very recently has expressed its option of joining the UF government therefore when the UF comes back to power the entire Left is expected to be part of the government.

Madan Jain (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:27 IST)
Sir, Is there a possibility of the two Communist parties coming together in our lifetime?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:45 IST)
Madan Jain: I appreciate the spirit behind your question. Now both the Communist parties are working together very closely and there is mutual consultations on all issues. There is unity in mass movements and actions. There is a functional coordination between the two parties at the national level and similar coordination in various states. Even though both the parties have not merged they work together. The Communist unification can happen in our lifetime or in the future at any time.

Manpreet (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:37 IST)
Hello to you sir, Farooq Abdullah has supported the Presidential form of governance. What is your reaction to it?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:47 IST)
Manpreet: We don't agree with the Presidential form of government. This has been suggested by many people in the past also. In our view this won't work in India, because of India's diverse nature.

Maria Olay (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:39 IST)
Welcome sir, on a personal basis, tell us about yourself, your background, your initiation to the Left, and political career. Do you pray, believe in worship? What is your educational background? And your political career?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:54 IST)
Maria Olay: I was born in the family of landless agricultural workers who are the poorest of the poor in Indian society, who are subjected to inhuman social oppression and economic and political exploitation. In fact I am the first graduate in my village. As a student I had to revolt against all forms of insults and injustice. This paved the way for my political career and intellectual pursuit. I became a student activist, youth activist. I was the general secretary of the All India Youth Federation. Presently, I am the national secretary of the CPI. I am a Tamilian, my wife is a Malayali. I don't worship, I am an atheist. I am a university graduate in mathematics and a graduate in education. But now I am a full time party activist.

sundar (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:52 IST)
Mr Raja: I remember Churchill who said Communism means ruling the country by few persons but democracy means ruling the country by all the sections of people. What is your comment on this?

Mar Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:57 IST)
Sundar: Churchill was not an authority on the theory of Communism. He never understood either Communism or democracy. Britain is a constitutional monarchy. In fact, Communism is the most humanitarian ideology and the Communist system which will emerge in the future will be a system free from all kinds of exploitation and enslavements where democracy blossoms fully.

RR (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:51 IST)
Mr. Raja: Why don't the Communist parties channel their dedicated cadres into the co-operative movement and relieve the masses of exploitation by trade and industry?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 9:0 IST)
RR: I appreciate your valuable suggestion. We in fact have taken this question seriously. We are trying to reorient at the grassroots level. We are trying to direct our cadres to take up constructive work, active participation in various governmental programmes and schemes and also in voluntary co-operative movements.

Matterson (Wed Jan 21 1998 8:38 IST)
Sir, While one can say that Communism has not retreated in India, it has also not expanded beyond its traditional three states. How do you explain that?

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 9:7 IST)
Matterson: There is relevance for the Communist ideology and movement in India but the Indian reality is a complex one. Here Communists will have to face many challenges like religious fundamentalism, casteism and social obscurantism etc. Fighting economic exploitation is one thing, fighting all those other things mentioned above is a very prolonged battle. In a society where you have social backwardness the reactionary forces will try to play upon those factors so Communists have to shake the mindset of the people. The Indian Communists are aware that our organisational presence and influence would have to be expanded particularly in the Hindi belt. We are trying to do so.

Mr Doraiswamy Raja (Wed Jan 21 1998 9:13 IST)
Hello everybody. Thank you very much. I could not answer some of your questions due to time constraints. I hope to interact with you in the future. I express my appreciation and gratitude for the interest you have shown through your questions. As Communists we pledge ourselves to work for the progress of our country and our people. We will play our due role in shaping the course of political development in our country. I hope you would also wish for the well being of India as a nation. I wish you all the very best and a very happy new year. THANK YOU.

The D Raja Chat