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August 23, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ Sitaram Yechuri

'The BJP government failed in its fundamental duty of guarding our international borders'

The time, says Communist Party of India-Marxist politbureau member Sitaram Yechury, has come for the voters to throw out the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

"It is necessary for the good of the country. In the 13 months of their rule, the BJP has played havoc with India's secular fabric," he told Onkar Singh in a one-on-one.

What would be your party's main poll plank in the general election?

There are a number of issues that would be raised during the campaign. For instance, there is the issue of conversions. Then the rising attacks on Christian minorities and the rising social tensions between various communities. The riots were still simmering in Gujarat when another broke out in the state.

Then there is the Kargil fiasco. What is surprising is the way the BJP government is trying to hide its inefficiency and convert its failure into some sort of victory. Victory it was for the brave soldiers of the Indian army, but not for the BJP government. We would like to tell the people how the intruders were allowed to come so deep into our territory by the laxity of the government. We won the 45-day-long war, but paid a heavy cost for achieving that victory. The BJP government failed in its fundamental duty of guarding our international borders. And any government that commits this type of blunder does not have the right to come back to power.

Vajpayee claims that his government has done a lot for the people and his party has a right to return to office.

How can a man who showed singular inability in maintaining his coalition talk of coming back to power? Because of that, we have the present political instability in the country. So their slogans of ability and stability have been punctured by their own performance.

Secondly, in every single area of public life this government has failed miserably and has added to the already heavy burden of the common citizen. They came to power on the slogan of swadeshi. But what have they actually done? They have thrown open the Indian economy to the multinationals. The question is not whether foreign capital should come to India or not. It is why are getting foreign capital and for what purpose.

In the economic field the BJP government has come to be known as the rollback government. They were acting under the compulsions of an unseemly coalition. The government lacked direction as far as governance is concerned.

The BJP claims that it brought the country into the nuclear club by resorting to Pokhran II.

Let them claim credit for that. But at the same time they should also tell the nation that because of this achievement, we brought Pakistan on parity with India. Earlier India had superiority in the conventional warfare, but once Pakistan acquired nuclear capability both India and Pakistan became equals. Once we were at par with Pakistan, it was able to do Kargil. So how can the BJP claim credit for something that is going against it?

Can you comment on the BJP-led government's talks of nuclear deterrent?

This again is a mistake. We would be opening the floodgates of a nuclear arm race in the Asian subcontinent. When the Lahore Declaration was signed, it was said that no decision on nuclear arms would be taken without bilateral consultations. Here again our Brajesh Mishra (the prime minister's principal secretary and national security advisor) goes to the press and makes announcements on the nuclear policies and outlines the draft nuclear policy.

Why is it that the communists contest only from the states where they have a stronghold?

We are not geared to put up candidates all over the country. At the moment our priority is to ensure that the BJP does not come back to power. That is why we are giving the slogan 'Save India Today'. We know our strengths and weaknesses. Where we are not strong enough, there we do not want to give the advantage to these communal forces by dividing secular votes. The division of votes amongst secular parties has been helping the BJP in increasing it strength in every Lok Sabha election.

The BJP says that if it rains in Moscow, the communists in Delhi open their umbrellas.

(Smiles.) Utter nonsense. They (the BJP) are anti-Communist because they cannot take us on. We are forward-looking people. But they want to take India backwards into the medieval times. That is where they live. They have not come to terms with modernity and modern reality. We want to go forward whereas they want to move backwards.

Each time there is an opportunity for (West Bengal Chief Minister and CPI-M veteran leader) Jyoti Basu to become prime minister, his own party shoots down the proposal. Why?

We are not hesitant to make him the prime minister. But what is the point of having a PM if you cannot dictate your policies and programmes? Unless we reach that stage it would not be proper for us to do things.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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