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'This is the biggest gamble the Third Front has undertaken'

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Coverage: India Votes 2009

May 15, 2009

In March 2006, soon after the death of the Communist Party of India-Marxist's West Bengal Secretary Anil Biswas, Biman Bose was chosen as his successor. Bose, who has never won an election, has a formidable reputation of being a grassroots man in the party.

Alongside the post of state party secretary, Bose is also chairman of the Left Front and a member of the CPI-M [Images] Politburo.

Soon after he took over, the party won a major victory in the West Bengal assembly polls in 2006, but in December tasted its first shock protest in Singur at the hands of share-croppers who refused to give their land to the government to give to the Tatas to build their dream car, the Nano [Images].

In March 2007, party cadres went one step further, firing against villagers in Nandigram [Images], also protesting land acquisition. The state was in turmoil and the party seemed divided.

In the panchayat polls that followed in May, the Left Front lost 15 out of 16 seats, although it recovered significantly in the zilla parishad polls.

Biman Bose spoke to Jyoti Malhotra at the party headquarters in Kolkata's Alimuddin Street.

Is this an unpredictable election for the Left Front?

It is not an unpredictable election at all. We are very confident that we will do well. It is the internal and foreign reactionary clique which is trying to disrupt the Left Front government and its activities.

The Left Front seems to be gradually losing popularity in Bengal. For example, you did very badly in the panchayat polls last year, losing 15 out of 16 panchayats.

In the panchayat polls, we won over 52 per cent of the vote. The Trinamool Congress [Images] won 24.6 per cent and the Congress party won 14.3 per cent. However, we did badly because the Left parties did not fight the elections unitedly. In 9,032 seats, the Left parties fought each other. The damage that took place, we have now controlled it. The unity of the Left Front is high in this election.

What did you do? Did you take recourse to 'self-criticism'?

We saw that the behaviour of certain panchayat functionaries was not up to the mark. They did some wrong things. We were seriously concerned with this issue. We discussed it and told our party activists not to hide any wrong-doing. If they realise they have done wrong, they must confess, beg pardon.

Like in Singur and Nandigram?

We did not give the examples of Singur and Nandigram, but we told them that they have no right to misbehave. You should not think that you know everything, we told them. We have a lot to learn from the people.

In Nandigram, the land issue was a non-issue, the government had declared that it would not acquire an inch of land in Nandigram.

But tell me, why is the Trinamool Congress still keeping the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee still in Nandigram when the government has announced that it will move the project to Nayachar, near Haldia? I will tell you. They are keeping it to misguide the people.

But why was your party not able to properly put its message across to the people of Nandigram?

You may say that the message did not go out at the appropriate time, that the government won't take an inch of land in Nandigram. But the chief minister announced it in Khejuri (a pro-CPI-M village across the canal from Nandigram). Then why is the Opposition trying to keep alive this issue? It will learn a lesson in these Lok Sabha election.

What do you think will happen in the election?

There are strong forces ranged against the Left. They have poured a lot of money into the election. That lady supremo of the Trinamool Congress (referring to Mamata Banerjee [Images]) is moving around with a placard around her neck which says 'I am an honest person.' But there is a lot of anger against these forces.

A lot of things will become clear after the election. The Opposition is cutting a poor figure, they have become desperate. Initially they thought they would give a big blow to the Left Front, but now they realise they won't be able to sustain it.

The electorate is also learning from its experiences. We will get a much higher percentage of the vote.

The action will now move to Delhi [Images] for the formation of the new government. Do you think the attempt at creating a Third Front has been your biggest challenge?

By creating the Third Front we have already accepted the challenge. You will compliment West Bengal for launching the Third Front from here. The way we have moved to galvanise the Third Front, to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party [Images] and the Congress parties at bay, we feel that once the results start coming in, the remnants of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and UPA (United Progressive Alliance) coalitions will desert their coalitions and join the Third Front.

But if the Congress emerges as the single largest party, will you support it from outside?

Why are you only talking about that? Why don't you talk about the fact that the Congress may have to support the Third Front from the outside? Why don't you think of that? Sharad Pawar [Images], Sharad Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu [Images] may join us.

Considering that the Left Front is the spine and backbone of the Third Front, will you join the government this time around?

We have already changed our stand in the last party congress on the issue of joining a government led by the Third Front. We are not passersby that we are only content with watching what is happening around us.

If the Left can get its plans and policies in place and is able to influence the direction of the new government, then we will join.

If you succeed, you will make history of course, but if you fail, will you feel at least that you had tried to create an alternative?

Yes, this is the biggest gamble that the Third Front has undertaken. But this is the first time in Indian politics that a pre-poll coalition of such a nature has been created. Most coalitions come together after elections, this one has been there from before. You have to give us credit for that.

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