'I told him when I started my political career seven decades ago he was not even born.'
'His political activities, the protests he organises and the way he fights the biggest corporate of India, the Ambanis, give hope to all people who are progressive. My desire is that such a party must grow, and I wished him all success for its growth.'
V S Achuthanandan, the senior-most Communist in India, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier why he turned down Arvind Kejriwal's invitation to join the Aam Aadmi Party.
At 90, V S Achuthanandan is the senior-most Communist in India.
Active and sharp even at this age, VS was the previous chief minister of Kerala and is the current Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly.
Born on October 20, 1923, poverty forced VS to quit studies after Class 7 and work in his brother's tailoring shop. He started his political career at 16 under the guidance of the legendary A K Gopalan, the first Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
In 1940, VS became a member of the Communist Party of India.
In 1964, he along with 32 others left the CPI to form the Communist Party of India-Marxist. He became a member of the powerful CPI-M Politburo in 1985, but was removed in 2009 when he questioned his old rival Pinarayi Vijayan in the Lavlin bribery case.
In a frank interview with Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier at his official residence, VS discusses Election 2014.
The Left tried to form a Third Front and announced an alliance with the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). But J Jayalalithaa ditched the Left and walked out. CPI leader A B Bardhan said it was foolish of the Left to work on a pre-poll alliance. Do you also feel so?
Yes, it was a shortcoming on our part not to understand the behaviour of such regional parties. In the competition between Jayalalithaa and (M) Karunanidhi (the DMK leader), she has the upper hand now.
When she showed interest in a Third Front, the general secretaries of the CPI-M and the CPI met her, and held talks with her. When she saw the way the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) was moving and the pathetic state of the Congress, she thought she had a chance to win 40 seats from Tamil Nadu.
Then, there is also her desire to be prime minister of the country. So, she decided to severe ties with the Left.
Was it not embarrassing for the Left when she walked out?
It is true that it has embarrassed the Left, no doubt about it.
It is also true that the Left did not anticipate such an end to a much publicised grand alliance.
So, what Mr Bardhan said is right?
He may say so now, but he was among those who chose to do so.
What the Left planned was a grand alliance. Anyway, we have formed a group of 11 parties and that includes national parties like the CPI-M, the CPI, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Forward Bloc and seven other regional parties.
I am sure this grand alliance of 11 parties will be a threat to the BJP, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), and it will be a secular, democratic, non-communal front led by the Left.
We will give a stiff fight to the Congress that is an epitome of corruption and price rise. The party has almost destroyed the country. Because of rampant corruption, the UPA is being totally isolated now.
Similarly, the BJP is responsible for dividing people on the basis of religion and make them fight on communal lines. The BJP's plan under (the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra) Modi is to use the Hindutva card to come to power.
Modi has not been talking about Hindutva...
He may not be using the word, but that is the party's and his hidden agenda.
He says he will implement the kind of development he has done in Gujarat...
What kind of development has he done in Gujarat? Thousands of people from the minority community have been murdered in the state. Is that development?
He cannot hide what happened in 2002 from anyone. What happened to the minorities in Gujarat under Modi was akin to what happened in Ayodhya after destroying the Babri Masjid under (senior BJP leader L K) Advani.
The BJP argument is that the court has exonerated Modi of any role in the 2002 riots. Do you agree?
The court verdict must have been favourable to Modi, but that doesn't absolve him of the deeds. Many more cases are going on even now.
The reality is that thousands of people from the minority community have been mercilessly killed in Gujarat.
What would happen -- like the opinion polls say -- if the NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) were to come to power and Modi was prime minister?
There is no chance of such an eventuality. We do not have to speculate about Modi ruling the country.
The rich and corporates of this country have united using and influencing the media to spread such a message, but that is not going to happen.
You must realise, that is not the reality. Majority of Indians are secular and they hold maximum influence in the entire country, and in Kerala. So, what the opinion polls say are not going to come true.
There was an impression that there was division within the CPI-M. That you have one opinion and the party has another. Is it true?
It is not so now. Yes, there were two opinions earlier. When (CPI-M rebel and the founder of the Revolutionary Marxist Party) T P Chandrasekharan was murdered in Kozhikode, I was of the opinion that there should be a proper probe, and whoever from the party was involved in it, should be punished.
People should not get the image that our party men kill each other. Later, even the party's central leadership understood what I was saying. If they (Kerala's CPI-M leaders) had taken a wrong stand earlier, it has been rectified by the all India leadership after I made them understand my point of view.
Did you have to fight a lot for that?
Yes, I had to. That is why the all India general secretary of the party Prakash Karat himself said our party men shouldn't kill each other for having differences of opinion. He enquired about the issue, and after that, a party man was expelled.
How many political parties in India have taken such a bold decision?
When I interviewed the chief minister of Kerala, he said the major issue in this election in Kerala will be the violent politics perpetuated by the Left.
It has been two-and-a-half years since the government under Oommen Chandy is in power in the state. He has been proclaiming at all platforms that as a chief minister, he has done wonderful things, and the people of Kerala are extremely satisfied with what he has been doing so far.
What has he got to say about the Solar Scam that happened under the leadership of a woman called Saritha S Nair? His government had to admit that there were 32 cases that had to be investigated.
Oommen Chandy has not uttered a single word about this corruption of mammoth proportions. His gunman is involved in corruption, and the scam is as big as Rs 450 crore (Rs 4.5 billion).
Though the people of Kerala are angry and frustrated with the chief minister because of the solar corruption case, he says the state is calm and peaceful.
Corruption of gargantuan proportions, prices of essential commodities touching gigantic heights and petrol prices reaching monstrous levels... Is this what the chief minister has done in two-and-a-half years?
Both the Congress and the BJP target only the Left. Why? Because we represent the ordinary people, the farmers, and the poor of this country.
We are the ones who fight for them, nobody else.
Do you feel the people of Kerala are tired of violence and violent politics?
When the ruling party works against the interests of the ordinary working class, what can we do except fight for them?
When the people of Kerala fight against the decisions of the ruling party, they call it violent politics. Whether it was Mahatma Gandhi or Subhas Chandra Bose, all our past leaders also have protested for the rights of the people.
Only protests can bring about change in society and it applies to Kerala, India or anywhere else in the world.
Even during the freedom struggle, the British said Indians were involved in violent politics. Similarly, the Left is fighting and protesting against the dirty politics of the Congress that is totally against the poor and the working class.
Do you think the people of Kerala agree with such violent protests?
Only when people accept such protests, would there be an end to anti-people activities.
This time, because of the Left, which has taken the help of other progressive parties, the country will be able to get rid of two devils: The Congress and the BJP.
Is it not a difficult task for the Third Front to get 272 seats?
That is what you think. But we believe it is the Third Front that has all the chances to form the next government.
But leaders from all regional political parties whether it is Jayalalithaa or Mulayam Singh or Mayawati want to be prime minister...
All these people have become greedy. We do not have any greedy people in our front.
The Congress will not get a majority. The BJP has absolutely no chance. Only the secular democratic Third Front will be able to.
Arvind Kejriwal recently invited you, a person who has been in politics for more than seven decades, to join his Aam Aadmi Party. What was your reaction?
I told him, when I started my political career seven decades ago by bringing together the farmers and the coir workers in Kuttanad, he was not even born.
I told him my association with the Left movement was very old. I have been working for the Marxist party as an MLA for decades. I was an Opposition leader and also a chief minister of a state.
It is admirable of the young man to start a party and dislodge a chief minister who was ruling Delhi for 15 years. I am happy that his party works for the needs of the poor and also fights against corruption.
My desire is that such a party must grow, and I wished him all the success for its growth.
Are you satisfied with the way he and his party conduct themselves?
His political activities, the protests he organises and the way he fights the biggest corporate of India, the Ambanis, give hope to all the people who are progressive in their outlook.
Will the Aam Aadmi Party make an impact in this election?
Quite possible. We have seen how they fared in the Delhi assembly election. I hope the party will win a few Lok Sabha seats also.
Image: Former Kerala chief minister and veteran Communist Party of India-Marxist leader V S Achuthanandan.