Interview: Brinda Karat

‘Modi has been dealt a severe blow’

Print edition : November 27, 2015

Brinda Karat. Photo: R. Ragu

Interview with Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M).

The Bihar elections saw six Left parties come together for the first time, and they contested 221 of the 243 seats on the basis of their relative strengths. Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), spoke to Frontline on the significance of the verdict, which gave a thumping two-thirds majority to the Grand Alliance in Bihar, and the role that the Left sees for itself. Excerpts from the interview:

What explains the verdict in Bihar? And what is the significance of this verdict? Can it be explained away by caste consolidation as is being projected by BJP spokespersons? Is it one single factor like the coming together of the JD(U) and the RJD or a multiplicity of factors?

It is “Jai ho” to the people of Bihar, particularly “Jai ho” to the women of Bihar. They rejected the Modi model of communally divisive, abusive and self-centred politics. It will have a very significant impact on national politics and will strengthen the movements against right-wing communal politics. In particular, Narendra Modi has been dealt a severe blow.

When the price of dal is Rs.200 a kilogram, the Modi slogan of development had no credibility. It is a verdict against communal politics and economic hardship imposed by the Modi government. For the first time in our parliamentary history, a Prime Minister actually introduced himself as being a member of a particular caste. How shameful that is, but the important point is that it didn’t work. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh [RSS] chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke the truth on their stand against reservation and the people of Bihar believed him and voted against [the BJP].

The Left played an important role in the elections with its widespread campaign against the communal and casteist politics of the BJP and against its neoliberal economic policies. The Left votes included a good section of Dalit votes and votes of the poor, which the BJP was hoping to get.

For the Left parties, it was a significant step forward in the united fight with an alternative policy platform, but much more will have to be done to emerge as a credible electoral alternative.

Apart from the political factors, it is true that the coming together of the parties of the Mahagathbandhan prevented a split in the anti-BJP vote. In the Lok Sabha elections, the split helped the National Democratic Alliance [NDA]. So, the electoral arithmetic [this time] worked in favour of the Mahagathbandhan.

Can it be said that the attempts to polarise the electorate using issues such as the cow and the bogey of cow slaughter backfired? As many as 30 rallies were addressed by the Prime Minister.

Whatever Modi’s spin doctors spit out now, there is no doubt that it is the defeat of communally divisive politics. I saw a good cartoon that sums it up well: the cow tells the trio of Modi, [Amit] Shah and the RSS, I can deliver milk and ghee, not votes! That sums it all up.

Does the verdict signal a rejection only of a certain kind of sectarian politics or is it also a rejection of the macroeconomic policies pursued by the Centre?

It is a combination of both. The slogan of development had no credibility compared with the record of his rule in Delhi, which was price rise and unemployment.

The Left parties contested together on a common plank and not with the Gathbandhan. How would you assess the performance of the Left as such?

We will review it. But I can say that it was a very correct decision to come together on an alternative policy plank. Ultimately, it is alternative economic policies and the social politics emanating from it that can provide a credible alternative to corrupt, anti-people and communal policies and provide relief to the people.

We have to see how we can further strengthen the independent identity of the Left as a united bloc, while bringing together all forces to fight the communal politics of the RSS-BJP combine.

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