'There is no existential challenge for the party'
The West Bengal assembly election will be historical whichever way the results come.
If the ruling party, made of coalition of Left parties, loses it will be the end of longest running, uninterrupted, Left-party rule in the country. On the contrary, if they register a win again in the 294-member assembly, it will be a miracle of sorts.
In their defeat, India will see the rise of an unusually strong but a grassroots woman leader Mamata Banerjee in eastern India under whom West Bengal may never be the same again.
In West Bengal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist faces acute anti-incumbency and an irrepressible Mamata. In fact, some experts claim that in West Bengal, there is an undercurrent against the CPI-M. Even in Kerala, the Left is facing people's ire for lack of development.
CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat spoke briefly to rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt on the party's prospects in the coming assembly elections in Kerala and West Bengal.
Your party is facing the existential challenge in West Bengal and Kerala. Are you geared up to face the challenge?
There is no existential challenge for the party. You can say there is a challenge for the government that we have. Our party is not going to disappear either from Bengal or from Kerala. Our party has a strong base amongst the people.
Click on NEXT to read further...
Image: CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat
'Extreme Right to extreme Left is united against us'
Electorally, it is facing a tough challenge. Particularly, in West Bengal there is total unity amongst anti-CPM and anti-Left forces. That unity extends from Mamata to Maoists!
The extreme Right to extreme Left is united against the CPI-M. That's big challenge for us in this election. In last few months, we have seen that our work amongst the people and response to the people is such that we have recovered a lot of ground, which we lost in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
Our rally in Kolkata on February 13 was huge and broke all records. That shows that our party is fully galvanised and the party ranks are geared up to face the election.
Overall, the persona of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is so pro-people and, particularly on the issue of land acquisition, it will be difficult to counter her.
I won't say pro-people. I would say she symbolises the anti-CPM opposition! She is the landing point for the anti-CPM forces. We are confident that compared to the Lok Sabha election, we have been able to recover the lost ground. We are winning back those who had moved away from us.
Image: Mamata Banerjee
'For the Congress, it is far more convenient to remain with Trinamool'
How do you read Mamata's leadership?
That I can't say. Basically, in West Bengal, the opposition cannot openly take a rightist stand. So, they would be on the left-of-centre. Naturally, they (Trinamool) have all rightist programmes. But they can't spell it out openly.
There is a perception that the Congress and Trinamool Congress don't have a smooth relationship and indirectly the Congress would not mind remaining soft against you in West Bengal, as their focus is on New Delhi.
In West Bengal there are contradictions between Congress and Trinamool. How far they have been sorted out and how will they present a united face has to be seen. But, I don't think this is the real issue. The Congress is now fully committed to the Mamata bandwagon in West Bengal. In the state, polarisation comes on class terms.
For the Congress, it is far more convenient to remain with the Trinamool.
Image: File photo shows Sonia, Mamata and Pranab sharing the dias
'Do you really think Mamata represents the land issue?'
Land and development have become issues on which your policy is failing you. Is it?
Do you really think Mamata represents the land issue or the people who want land? You will find the opposite in West Bengal!
Because of our three decades of land reforms those who had land and opposed our reforms are flocking under the banner of the Trinamool. They hope that if CPI-M and Left Front can be ousted then the land reforms can be reversed.
The old vested interest of the land sector wants to return. This is the actual position.
It is said that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya does not have the total backing of your party.
That is campaign of a faction of the Bengali media.
Image: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya addressing an election rally
'We will withstand the might of money power'
In Kerala, traditionally people select one of the two fronts, alternatively.
Our party is the biggest political party in the coalition. In Kerala, alliances and coalitions matter. It is true that Left Democratic Front did badly in the Lok Sabha election. There are some changes in the alliances as well. We are trying to rebuild alliances and getting some new.
Right now, the United Democratic Front (led by the Congress) is on the defensive due to corruption scandals and other issues. And people in Kerala are sensitive to corruption.
What is the basis of your hope in both states?
People. People see the changes we have made and are making. Our performance is in the interests of people. In West Bengal, Maoists have somewhat been contained and isolated. In fact, we have given enough evidence on how the Trinmool has been helping the Maoists. Our organisation strength will withstand the might of money power.
Image: Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan