» Election » Exclusive: Karat on PM's post, ideology and N-deal

Exclusive: Karat on PM's post, ideology and N-deal

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
March 24, 2009 14:21 IST
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Prakash Karat, general secretary of Communist party of India-Marxist, has so far, played his cards carefully in the election season by creating the third pole to oppose the Congress and the BJP. His success will depend on Congress and BJP and their alliances. The regional parties who have joined the 'third alternative' are looking forward to a season of good "bargains" after the results. Here is the second part of's exclusive interview with Karat.

Part I: Exclusive: Karat on Congress, caste & campaign

On why the Indian voter would vote for the Third Front

The voters in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa or Tamil Nadu will go by the record of the Congress government at the Centre, the state government and the record of the opposition parties in the states.

In most of these states, the CPI-M is allied with the opposition parties. In Tamil Nadu, our presence is much less. J Jayalalithaa is the main leader who is capable of getting the bulk of the votes.

The Left parties are under no illusion. In Orissa, Naveen Patnaik and in AP, the TDP are the bigger parties. We are co-operating now so that we can do so in future, as well. We believe the Third Front should not have PM candidate before election because it's not necessary. I think the BJP has made the biggest mistake (by nominating L K Advani for PM.). They want to treat this election as the presidential election. I think they have been influenced by the presidential elections in the US. They are projecting Advani as the strong leader and all that. But, that not the way parliamentary elections are decided.

People vote for the candidate, they vote for the party they have experienced. They don't go by who is going to be PM sitting in New Delhi. This election is not a referendum on who will be the prime minister? We have the parliamentary system. Everyone knows that we have a coalition government. After the coalition, who will be head of the coalition and become the PM will be decided, then. That's how we see it. Our (Third Front) strength is that we are a federal alliance. We want federal system in our country.

We have the system in Parliament where the regional aspirations are represented by regional parties. The Left and regional parties are natural allies. It is only when the BJP rose and become a pole that the regional parties got attracted to. But, we have changed it now. This election is not going to be bipolar, it will be tri-polar election.

See, P Chidambaram received the head of the CIA. I am sure if we form the government we will not become a junior partner of United States of America. All the parties which are with us have taken a stand against Indo-US nuclear deal. In the trust vote in Parliament all the nine parties of the third alternative and the Bahujan Samaj Party voted against the nuclear deal. We have a greater communality even on issue of foreign policy which is directly not so important.

On what will be the criteria to select the prime ministerial candidate

We have enough experience. We have done it in 1989 and 1996. Our party has an advantage because we are not pitching for prime ministership from our party.

We are in position to see that all the parties in the coalition get together and arrive at the common candidate. I can not say what will matter numbers or any other thing. We will discuss this after the election. We are against projecting anybody. I do not share this obsession to debate who will be the prime ministerial candidate. As far as our agenda is concerned we are not projecting any as PM and we are not interested in the post. We are telling the people we will provide the alternative platform. We are discussing the common platform for policies.

On his party's weak position in the states

In 2006, everybody said that my party is badly divided in Kerala. But, we put up the best performance ever since our party was formed in 1965. Our party will face the elections united.

On the Third Front's economic policy

The Third Front has undertaken discussion on economic policy. Chandrababu Naidu and our party have held two years of discussion on economic policies. We have arrived at common understanding. He (Naidu) has said that he has changed. Go to Andhra Pradesh and you will know about it. He says, "We have learnt from our mistakes. We neglected the rural poor. We were reaching a small section through our policies." Whoever comes with us after election will agree to the Common Minimum Programme.

On the middle class who may not prefer weak government

The middle class in this country are not only those who make money out of share market. There is a big middle class section of salaried people who are worried for their jobs, worried for their provident funds. Government employees are worried about their pensions. We stopped their pensions going to the stock market. It would have been blown up with no savings left. A large section of the middle class appreciates the role we played in the last four and half years in the UPA government. Our stand has helped the common man.

On his biggest challenge

Our biggest challenge is to see that we defeat both, the Congress and the BJP. That's a tough task but, we are well-equipped to fight. Money is not an issue for us. We don't take money from big houses or corporates. We politely decline.

We say no when anybody from them comes and offers money. We take money from small and medium entrepreneurs if they are sympathetic to our cause. If they give money we take. Money from big corporates pollutes. I am not talking about any particular person. Eventually, all these parties are on their back and call. Their (political parties) MPs and leaders becomes their (big business houses) lobbyists. We don't need their money. If some of our allies are taking money from big business houses (Ambanis, Tatas or Birlas etc) then, it's fine. I can't dictate what others party do. We will ensure that we have a common policy direction.

On what's the likely outcome of this confusing pre-poll scenario      

The scene seems confusing because a lot of people have preconceived notion that there can be only two party system or two-front system. In last two weeks we have proved that wrong already. We have proved that something else is possible. Only some people are confused. Who is going to get 272 seats? Neither the Congress-led alliance, nor the BJP-led alliance nor the third force is going to get 272 votes. We will not get 272 in the election but, we will get 272 after the election results! Let us not speculate. I am saying that there is a good possibility of non-Congress, non-BJP government coming to power.

On the possibility of forming the government without Congress support?

We will see about that. Let the voting get over. You see, what is the UPA today? They were criticising us that we don't have any common programme. Does the UPA have any common programme or manifesto for the election? No. Their argument that there is no alliance at the Centre. Let them have the common manifesto with Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Pawar. Like them only we are also, a state-based alliance, only. Then, why are they asking us to have some common programme when they don't have one? We are proud that we are based in states. All the parties on our side have firm roots in the states. We are the federation of regional parties.

See, you cannot have a common ideology. Can the DMK, that believes in Dravidian ideology, and the BJP have any common ideology? Ideology is not an issue. Can we come together for the common minimum programme? That will be the issue. No party is prepared to give up its ideology. I will not give up my ideology for anything. But, I am prepared to find out what is common and make it the basis for a CMP.

Before the election we are fighting against Congress for their poor record in last five years and we are fighting against BJP for their communal politics and agenda. We are arguing that why it is necessary to have a third alternative government. The CPI-M's politics is governed by the tactics that sub-serves our strategic goal. If you are not flexible then you are being foolish. You are not able to achieve your goal.

On why should voter vote for the government that may not be stable

You don't see reality in India. Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram have an obsession with the growth rate. So we had 9 percent growth rate. But, what did we get? 230 million people in India are under-nourished. 40 percent children under the age of 3 are malnourished. 50 percent of women are anaemic. All because of UPA government's obsession with GDP growth that fattens a few people. The rich become super rich in this system. Amongst the ten richest people, four are Indians. That is your record!

We are taking the government head-on on that issue. Lakhs of people are losing jobs and the government is doing nothing about it. Any government will be better than this government. What is stability after all? We have provided them stability to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

On Indians attraction to America and Indo-US relations

I think, (smiles) you are meeting only a particular section of people. Today, I got three calls asking why I have not protested against the CIA chief meeting Chidambaram? I think, people expect us to take firm stand on such matters. We are asking the government why are you getting into such a relationship where you have to buy expensive equipment? These arms and high-tech trade are part of the conditions of the nuclear deal. Not only is India going to buy 10,000 Megawatts for Rs 2.8 lakh crore but along with it we have to buy all sorts of equipment.

We have studied the international quotations of these US companies. Americans are supplying similar weapons and equipments to Pakistan also. The Indo-US nuclear treaty has a clause that says that either country can ask for review of the treaty. That's a sovereign right. I have said that we will 'rework' the Indo-US nuclear deal if we come to power. We will say that we don't want some clauses in 123 Agreement because it's harmful to our country. We will renegotiate it and rework it.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi