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'Rahul Seems A Combination Of Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar'

April 18, 2024 16:24 IST
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'The Congress is trying to reinvent itself -- the caste census demand, OBC emphasis, the anti-corporate thrust, especially on Adani etc -- all this is not standard Congress strategy.'

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at the Kisan Nyay Mahapanchayat in Sasaram in Bihar. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation is an independent Left force. It has 12 MLAs in the Bihar assembly and is contesting three Lok Sabha seats in the state as part of the INDIA alliance.

The CPI M-L has been around for 50 years, but boycotted elections till the mid-1980s. "Asserting the right to vote and using the election to continue the struggle made more sense than staying away from it," explains Dipankar Bhattachrya, general secretary of the party since 1998.

"On the first day of the 1989 Lok Sabha poll when the landless poor of Bhojpur cast their vote, the price they paid was a massacre. 22 people were gunned down after the polling was over," recalls Bhattacharya, an alumnus of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata.

The party then known as the Indian People's Front won the seat from Arrah. In the 1990 Bihar assembly election, it won 7 seats and finished second in 14, but went on to be eclipsed by the rise of Lalu Yadav in the 1990s.

In 2020, the Left joined hands with Lalu's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress for the Bihar assembly election. The CPI M-L supported the Mahagatbandhan government, which was in power from August 2022 to January 2024, from outside.

"The Congress is negotiating the toughest of times and weakest of positions electorally," Bhattacharya tells's Archana Masih and Nikhil Lakshman at the CPI M-L office in Patna on a sultry morning.

Part 2 of a multi-part interview:


Did the Congress drag its feet initially on the INDIA alliance because it thought it would win the three assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan?

The assembly elections could have had better results and better managed had there been an INDIA input. INDIA was not factored in at all. It was built and put aside.

The Congress is in transition. It is trying to reinvent itself -- the caste census demand, OBC emphasis, the anti-corporate thrust, especially on Adani etc -- all this is not standard Congress strategy.

People are worried that in its manifestos for the assembly election, they talked about the old pension scheme, but have dropped it from their 2024 manifesto for which P Chidambaram had a convoluted explanation.

The Congress is negotiating the toughest of times and weakest of positions electorally. Whether this was the only way to respond or the best strategy to employ, only time will tell.

Have you interacted with Rahul Gandhi? Is he genuinely left of centre or is it just posturing?

I have met him in meetings and separately as well. I won't call it posturing. I won't even call him left of centre. He is evolving. In some way he has the old Nehruvian philosophy. In some moments he seems like a combination of Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar. Like Ambedkar, he talks of social equality.

Is he genuine?

It is not for me to say, he appears to be giving it his best.

What strategy do you think the BJP will deploy in Bihar?

The BJP is using Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Nitish had left the BJP because he thought that his days in the NDA were numbered because the BJP had used him and his survival instincts demanded that he change.

It was a shock that he returned (to the NDA) because he was the chief minister anyway, but if you look at the alliance it tells you that the BJP has been very careful not to ruffle any feathers in Bihar.

They may have some plans beyond the 2024 Lok Sabha election because like UP, the BJP would like to have its own government and the Bihar version of bulldozer raj.

They would like to find a Yogi Adityanath kind of person in Bihar, not donning the saffron robe, but espousing that kind of hardline politics.

IMAGE: Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist Liberation, at the party office in Patna. Photograph: Nikhil Lakshman/

But the BJP is probably willing to wait and being very careful just now. They used Chirag Paswan in the assembly election to downsize Nitish Kumar and now they have brought Chirag back.

They have also put forward Jitan Ram Manjhi, so the BJP has been careful about its allies in Bihar.

In many other states, the BJP does not care about other allies, but Bihar is a state they are careful about keeping the alliance intact.

Secondly, the BJP talks about development, but basically it use a combination of communal polarisation along with cobbling an alternate social coalition against the dominant social force.

For example in Haryana, it is against the Jats, in UP against the Yadavs -- they attack the Muslim Yadav coalition both from the M and Y end.

Communal polarisation is a defining feature of the BJP, but at the same time and equally, its defining feature is attracting an alternative coalition which includes Dalits, extremely backward castes, non Yadavs -- it uses communal polarisation, social engineering, alliance building plus Modi.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra D Modi and Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar at an election meeting in Nawada, April 7, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

What impact have the prime minister's election meetings had in Bihar?

I didn't see them having that kind of an impact. Modi and BJP will leave no stone unturned. They are an election machine. He will be addressing many rallies like he did in Bengal in 2021 which didn't have that kind of impact, similarly in Delhi they had no success.

In 2020, when we were contesting, J P Nadda, Amit Shah and said everything against us -- 'Tukde-tukde gang' and 'urban Naxals', but it didn't work.

Modi will attempt his level best.

The BJP has centered its 2024 campaign on 'Modi ki guarantee'. What impact will this along with the construction of tjhe Ram temple in Ayodhya have in this election?

The Ram temple is a matter of faith and has made people happy, but I don't see it having that kind of impact, even in North India. It is not an issue that will make people forget everything else and bring Modi back to power.

Had that been the case, then the BJP would not have been trying so many tricks like using the ED, CBI, even the Bharat Ratna for electoral gain.

The desperation seen in the BJP tells me that even they are aware that the Ram card has its limits. They have used Ram over so many elections. Probably, even Ram is not free from the law of diminishing returns.

As far as 'Modi ki guarantee' -- people have realised that he has not delivered on his promises. He had talked about doubling farmers' income and universal housing by 2022. He is not talking about that anymore and is now taking you to 2047. He is shifting the goalpost.

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