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January 29, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/V S Achutanandan

'The BJP was encouraged to promote majority communalism because the Congress supported minority communalism'

V S Achutanandan Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member V S Achutanandan has emerged a key player in the Left Democratic Front's electoral scheme.

The senior leader, who became convener of the ruling LDF in Kerala after his faction emerged victorious in the CPI-M's organisational election last month, has had a big say in the selection of candidates for the 13 seats which the Marxists are contesting in Kerala.

He has virtually kept out all trade union leaders who manouvered his defeat at Mararikkulam in the 1996 assembly election, robbing him of his chance to become chief minister.

The general election is of great importance to Achutanandan since it will test his strategy to fight the election without the help of communal parties. The senior CPI-M leader, who refused to accommodate the Indian National League and the People's Democratic Party, is hopeful that the Kerala electorate will recognise the CPI-M's uncompromising posture against communalism.

Achutanandan shares his assessment of the electoral battle in an exclusive interview with D Jose:

What prompted you to deny the support of the INL and PDP? After all, they had supported the LDF earlier.

I am of the considered opinion that the LDF do not need the help of mediators to get the support of minorities. The Indian Union Muslim League which claims that only the Congress can protect the minorities is as communal as the BJP. We consider the INL and PDP as other versions of the IUML, which aligned with the Congress to bring down the first Communist ministry in the state. The Muslim League had an active role in the liberation struggle that brought down the Namboodiripad government in 1957. Although we had to align with the IUML at certain times we thought it was a mistake and corrected ourselves.

The Bharatiya Janata Party was encouraged to promote majority communalism because the Congress supported minority communalism. My sincere advice to Kerala voters is to understand the friends and foes.

What is your perception of the stand on minorities?

I think that an electoral alliance with minority parties is necessary for protecting minority interests. Whenever the LDF came to power in Kerala, our government has consistently taken care to further the social and economic development of minorities. On the contrary, the Congress which ruled the Centre has not been able to stop the demolition of the Muslim place of worship. The leader who was responsible for it is still maintaining a silence on the outrage.

What will be Sonia Gandhi's impact in the present election?

Sonia Gandhi cannot help the Congress in any way. The party is in such deep trouble that it cannot be redeemed by an individual. What are Sonia's credentials? Although she claims she is the daughter of India, her track record in India disproves it. She has no convincing answer on her determined refusal to take up Indian citizenship for 17 years. She took proud to be known as an Italian rather than an Indian. Her apology for Operation Blue Star has no relevance. How can she explain her silence on the issue so far? Why is she still silent on the Delhi massacre?

I think the best that her entry has done to the Congress is that it has boosted the morale of certain Congressmen. Her entry into active politics will not help the Congress to recapture power.

How far will the Congress slogan to provide a stable government click?

People know the claim is not sincere in view of its action causing the downfall of the UF government. Senior Congress leader P V Narasimha Rao had repeated umpteen times that it will support the UF government for its full term. Sitaram Kesri who replaced Rao had the moral duty to keep the party's promise. But he chose to bring down the government with the ulterior motive of forming his own. All the reasons the party had advanced for pulling down the Deve Gowda government and then the Gujral government were baseless.

How far is the UF equipped to prevent the BJP from coming to power at the Centre?

People know only the United Front can fight the communalism being practised by the BJP. The Congress has a track record of promoting communalism. Therefore the people will strengthen the UF. They know the Congress does not have the strength to prevent a BJP march.

Do you foresee the election scenario veering round to a situation in which Jyoti Basu could lead the next government?

We can discuss the prospects of Basu becoming the prime minister only if the UF emerges in a strong position to form the government on its own. We are not ready for another experiment with the Congress. We will therefore wait till the outcome is known to decide whether the CPI-M should join the government. We need only two minutes to decide about the prime ministership.

What would be the CPI-M's stance on the economic policy if the UF returns to power?

I think the UF will follow a different policy. Our opinion is that the policy that the previous UF government followed was essentially the policy of the Congress. That was against the national interest.

There is an allegation that the CPI-M's trade union wing in Kerala was not adequately represented in the allocation of seats.

The allegation is baseless. We have given due representation to all sections in the party. The women have got a better deal this time. We have fielded two women candidates as against one by the Congress.

How far will factionalism affect the LDF poll prospects?

I don't see any factionalism in our party. The reports in this regard are the work of imagination of pressmen. All our comrades are united to fight the poll.

But in the just-concluded organisational election several experienced leaders were thrown out of the state committee. How do you explain this?

The election was held on democratic lines. It is wrong to say that since someone has lost they will work against the party. Defeat in an election is part of the democratic process.

Do you agree with the Opposition demand for considering the general election as a referendum on the 19-month-old Nayanar government?

We are not against people deciding their electoral choice on the basis of the performance of the government. I don't think the performance by the LDF government was too bad. Our major success was in containing the prices of essential commodities. We have been able to prevent the price rise experienced during the previous UDF regime by activating the fair price shops.

However, the government has not been able to prevent the crash in the price of agricultural products that the state exports. This is due to the wrong policies followed by the central government. We have been able to provide some succor to the rubber growers by activating the pronouncement mechanism.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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