"Teach a Lesson to the Government of Loot and Lies" -
CPI(ML) Perspective in Bihar Polls
(The Hindi monthly Public Agenda interviewed CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya on 13 September about CPI(ML)'s role and perspective in the upcoming Bihar polls. The text of the interview is reproduced below. – Ed/-)
(1) Bihar is going to face elections in November. In your opinion what kind of issues are going to emerge in the coming elections?
A: Nitish Kumar had come to power promising a New Bihar, but the old has resurfaced in a big way. The Land Reform Commission recommendations were a real test for his government. Were he really serious about taking Bihar on a new road, he could have chosen to implement the LRC recommendations and make a modest beginning towards land reforms. He has chosen to dump the report and abandon the agenda and keep the feudal forces in good humour. As far as the working people and democratic opinion are concerned, this betrayal is the core issue. Everything else – bureaucratic domination, institutionalised loot of development funds, bonhomie with communal forces – is symptomatic of this great betrayal.
Even on the much-hyped ‘development’ front, agriculture has registered 17% decline last year, there is absolutely no industrial investment, no reopening of closed mills, no electricity, and young people who were employed on contract basis on minuscule ‘honorarium’ are complaining of non-payment of even such sub-minimum wages! Hunger stalks large parts of rural Bihar and some 150 starvation deaths have been acknowledged by the Supreme Court committee. We have therefore termed this government a reign of loot and lies, and are calling upon the people to teach these traitors a good lesson.
(2) CPI-ML(Liberation) has been getting a good number in the assembly. What reasons do you see behind the decreasing number of legislators in recent elections?
A: Our numbers in the Assembly have not actually decreased, they have remained rather constant. In 1990 we had begun with 7 MLAs in undivided Bihar – 6 of them were from constituencies in present-day Bihar. If we compare figures on the basis of present-day Bihar, the number increased marginally to 7 in February 2005, fetching us the status of a recognised state party (3% of the total strength of the Assembly) from the Election Commission, but went down to 5 in the November 2005 election. In about 20 seats we have remained electorally in the reckoning managing to register wins from some 13 seats in different elections.
Elections are a highly unequal battle, and it is perhaps only natural that the strength of a revolutionary communist party remains underrepresented in this arena. Having said that, we must also acknowledge the fact that the revolutionary movement is also periodically affected by the illusion generated by new slogans of the ruling classes – when Lalu Prasad came to power his initial appeal among the poor in Bihar did affect our base, and Nitish Kumar’s promises too had some early impact.
(3) Since IPF came into existence and Liberation as a party made itself open to elections, what strategy had been on your mind: to take the power, to participate in power, or to influence the powers that be?
A: None of the three, really. We are pretty aware of the fact that state power in Bihar is predominantly feudal-kulak power; governments essentially serve the narrow and retrograde interests of these classes with the help of a police-bureaucrat-criminal nexus. There is no question of the CPI(ML) participating in such governments – the CPI(ML)’s task inside Assembly can only be to expose and resist such governments and their anti-people measures and represent the people’s aspirations and fight for their realisation.
We are however theoretically open to the possibility of a different kind of power taking shape in Bihar through powerful mass upsurges and sustained struggles and the CPI(ML) will surely play a leading role in such a context.
(4) Do you feel a sense of satisfaction over your party's performance in the past elections?
A: As I’ve already said, elections are a highly unequal battle and the Assembly does not reflect our real or full strength. But at a time, when the Congress has been reduced to less than 10 seats in Bihar, and the CPI has no more than 3 seats, the 5-7 seats held consistently by the CPI(ML) do indicate a reasonable degree of core strength of the revolutionary movement.
(5) There is the talk of a broad left alliance in election in Bihar? How far that has materialized? What is the basis of seat division and supporting each other's candidate?
A: Bihar today has an NDA government and the CPI(ML) as well as the CPI and CPI(M) are in the opposition. Nationally, the CPI and CPI(M) have also had to move away from the UPA, and in Bihar they are no longer in alliance with the RJD and/or LJP. This has made it possible for the three parties to arrive at a common minimum understanding and contemplate a seat-sharing arrangement. The process of mutual consultation is on among the state committees of the three parties.
(6) Money, muscle and caste have been decisive factors in Bihar elections. How you are planning to deal with these and secure votes in your favour?
A: These are decisive factors not just in elections but in everyday dominant politics in Bihar. For their everyday needs, the common people are pitted against the feudal-kulak-bureaucrat-criminal nexus in almost every sphere of life. Our movement has emerged precisely on the basis of the people’s resistance to this nexus and hence in elections too we are better placed to combat the otherwise decisive influence of money- and muscle-power. The oppressed people in Bihar had to pay a heavy price to secure their right to vote. They had to pay a heavier price for their ‘audacity to win’ elections. We rely on the strength of the people’s consciousness, resolve and organisation to take on feudal-kulak power and the rulers’ repertoire of money-muscle weapons in elections.
(7) Are you planning broad left alliance in other states as well? If yes, what will be its nature - purely electoral or political? If no, hasn't the time arrived for such alliances at state and national levels?
A: We have just formed an All India Left Coordination together with three other fighting Left organisations based in Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala. With the CPI(M) facing an unprecedented crisis, conditions are clearly emerging for a realignment of Left forces and rejuvenation of the Left movement on a radical basis and we are trying our best in this direction.
(8) Given the ultra-left Maoists' violence and state's repression - what kind of future you see for Bihar and elsewhere? At places, Liberation has been at loggerheads with the Maoists. What threats or challenges do you see from them in the coming elections?
A: There is little mass influence of the Maoists in Bihar. They have been by and large isolated from their traditional pockets in central Bihar and are currently busy in military actions in some border regions. The Lakhisarai episode has further eroded whatever goodwill they used to enjoy among some sections – the killing of an adivasi who had been taken hostage has made it clear that the so-called Maoists have little respect for Mao’s teachings and principles.
The Lakhisarai episode has also exposed the Nitish Kumar government. Kumar had been trying to distance himself from the UPA’s Green Hunt strategy, stressing the role of development and political process in tackling the Maoist insurgency. But when his government was faced with the weeklong hostage crisis, he himself became a hostage of the Green Hunt strategy. Roads leading to the CM’s residence were sealed, the already tight security was further tightened, and the CM bothered to convene an all-party meeting after full six days when one of the four hostages had already been killed by the Maoists.
The Maoists are not likely to be a major factor in Bihar elections even though the Election Commission has chosen to stretch the elections to six phases and arbitrarily reduce the voting time in several constituencies in each phase from ten hours to eight hours.
(9) What will be your issues in the elections?
A: The issues that concern the common people of Bihar will all find prominence in our election campaign. The government’s refusal to carry out land reforms and its utter failure in easing the burden of agrarian crisis and rising prices; mass hunger and complete collapse of the rationing system; exclusion of the poor from the BPL list and consequently from all BPL-based schemes; rampant loot of public funds; utter lack of employment and electricity; and feudal-bureaucratic domination in every sphere will obviously be the major issues in the coming elections.
(10) Have you given a thought to be part of the government if you get crucial seats? In that case which party you find closer to you?
A: We are certainly hoping to increase our number of seats but we are not going to be part of any government. We will continue to represent the interests and aspirations of the people and fight for their realisation.