Interview: Prakash Karat

‘Failed to connect with middle classes & youth'

Print edition : June 13, 2014

Prakash Karat.

Interview with Prakash Karat, CPI(M) general secretary.

THE decisive outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in favour of the BJP marginalised several secular non-Congress, non-BJP national parties that could have emerged as an effective alternative to the Congress. The Left was among them and its score has been disappointing. Prakash Karat spoke to Frontline on the elections and the Left’s performance. Excerpts:

How would you interpret the outcome of this round of Lok Sabha elections? After 30 years, a single party has been able to secure a decisive majority.

There was an anti-Congress wave in the country. In the absence of a non-Congress secular alternative at the national level, the BJP was able to cash in on the anti-Congress mood. The people’s anger was due to the record of the UPA government—unbearable price rise, agrarian distress, rising unemployment and, above all, massive corruption. While the BJP has benefited from this wave against the Congress, its sweeping victory shows that it has been able to effectively project Narendra Modi as the leader who can deliver on development. What has not been exposed is that the BJP has also benefited from a degree of communal polarisation, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Assam. In fact, the startling results from U.P. are the result of the RSS-directed mass campaign.

What is the significance of this verdict?

The BJP has secured an absolute majority. This will have significant repercussions. A party which is based on the Hindutva ideology has been able to get a majority even though it is on the basis of 31 per cent support for the BJP. The danger is that the RSS and the Hindutva forces would see this as a democratic legitimisation of their communal ideology and seek to translate it into shaping the institutions of the state and government. Further, given the record of Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the right-wing economic agenda of the BJP, one can expect a more aggressive pursuit of neoliberal ideologies. The ideology of “development” will translate into a big-business-driven model of development, which can only heighten economic and social inequalities. All this represents a rightward shift in Indian politics.

Narendra Modi has been talking about governance for the poor, the common man and about addressing issues of workers. He described himself as “Mazdoor No 1”.

If this is to be practised, then the Modi government will have to make a radical departure from the Gujarat model that it wants to emulate for the rest of the country. There are already economic advisers who are advocating the scrapping or the curtailment of social welfare schemes and redistribution policies. Some of them would like to see the scrapping of the MGNREGA and the Food Security Act.

How do you rate the performance of the Left? The results for the CPI(M) and the Left have been disappointing.

The CPI(M) and the Left fared badly in these elections. This was mainly due to the debacle in West Bengal. There are various factors for this poor result in West Bengal. While there was widespread violence and rigging of the polls, it is also a fact that the Left could not recover from the erosion it suffered in many areas. The substantial rise in the vote for the BJP shows that communal politics is taking root in the State, which should be a serious cause of concern for the Left. We are also examining why we could not make more progress in Kerala where the LDF could win only eight of the 20 seats. It is only in Tripura that the Left Front could win a sweeping victory where it secured 64 per cent of the votes polled. The electoral performance of the Left should be self-critically examined. Why is it that the CPI(M) and the Left could not translate the popular struggles and resistance to the UPA government’s economic policies into electoral support? I think the Left has failed to connect with the middle classes and the youth. We should go in for a revamping of our political platform and bring about a change in our organisational work.