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'Left can't grow by harping on the TMC'

By Arindam Roy
February 13, 2021 15:02 IST
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'It will be suicidal for Left voters to vote for the BJP because of their anger against the TMC.'

IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the media at her office Nabanna in Howrah. Photograph: Sudipta Banerjee/ANI Photo

With a strike rate of more than 60 per cent in the Bihar assembly polls, the results have infused hope into the Left, especially in the West Bengal camp, ahead of the 2021 state election.

Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist, or CPI-ML, in an interview with Arindam Roy, talks about the Left's strategy in West Bengal, and its future.


Do you think Narendra Modi's popularity is still intact in the country?

Let us not forget that the pre-Modi BJP had won 90-plus seats in Bihar in 2010. The JD-U had then won as many as 115 seats.

After 10 more years of the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar and more than six years of the Modi rule at the Centre, the NDA is down by more than 80 seats.

The BJP's success lies in the fact that it managed to inflict a disproportionate blow to Nitish Kumar who lost 70 of those seats, while the BJP limited its own damage to only about 15 seats.

But it is very clear that Modi's popularity has been dented big time and his rhetoric no longer has the mesmerising effect on people.

Do you think the Left will be able to revive itself in Bengal, where the BJP has seen a meteoric rise?

The Left remains the crucial ideological political counterpoint to the disastrous policies and politics of the BJP and the Sangh brigade.

The BJP's virulent attacks on our party in Bihar have corroborated this fact and our electoral performance has underlined the strength of the Left in this battle for democracy.

It was the battle for the restoration of democracy which had popularised the Left in the wake of Emergency in the 1970s.

Anti-fascist resistance and multifarious struggles for people's rights will establish the CPI-ML in today's context.

IMAGE: Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, centre, flashes the victory sign at a press conference in Patna. Photograph: Pappi Sharma/ANI Photo

Sitaram Yechury and Biman Bose rejected your assertion that the Left needs to treat the BJP as the bigger threat and go easy on the Trinamool Congress. They said they will target the TMC and the BJP equally. Your thoughts...

I never wanted the Left to go soft on the TMC; I just wanted the Left not to allow the BJP to grow unchallenged in West Bengal.

The idea of equivalence between the BJP and the TMC is not being taken seriously by any section of the West Bengal society -- the thesis of equivalence is only subjecting the CPI-M to a double squeeze; those who consider the TMC as the main target are gravitating towards the BJP and people disturbed by the BJP's rise are moving towards the TMC.

The Left cannot grow by just harping on the TMC's anti-incumbency.

The BJP received a vote share of 40 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. West Bengal is getting increasingly polarised between the BJP and the TMC. How will the Left create its own space?

The contexts of the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections are different. Modi's second term is turning out to be an unmitigated disaster for the country.

Workers, young job-seekers, and common people are facing the brunt of privatisation and the economic disaster resulting in massive job losses, wage cuts, soaring prices, and economic insecurity.

BJP votes can diminish drastically in this situation.

Compare BJP votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha in Jharkhand and Bihar with the assembly election votes, and we get a clear idea of how the BJP vote share can go down in West Bengal, too.

The Left movement has a powerful legacy in West Bengal, the response to the November 26 strike and farmers' protests shows us the tremendous potential that is again growing for the Left.

The point is to stay on this course and not let the BJP vitiate the environment, derail the discourse and hijack the anger of the people, and channelise it to suit its divisive agenda.

Many say the BJP's rise seems to have happened at the cost of the Left. When you say the BJP is the bigger threat, don't you think you will push these voters further away?

The BJP's rise in West Bengal has happened at the cost of all parties -- the Congress, the TMC, and the Left.

We are concerned about the decline of the Left vote share because Left voters should be ideologically most firm and committed against the BJP's communal fascist politics.

The Left vote by definition should be anti-BJP in the first place. It will be suicidal for Left voters to vote for the BJP because of their anger against the TMC.

Why can't we strengthen the Left and bring it back as a powerful rallying centre, as a viable political alternative?

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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