'Nobody can isolate us from the people'

Print edition : May 08, 1999

India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU

Several Opposition parties blame Samajwadi Party (S.P.) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav for the failure to form an alternative government after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition was voted out. The Congress(I), the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the S.P.'s partner in the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha (RLM), allege that Mulayam Singh's stubborn stance prevented the Congress(I) from forming a minority government. As a consequence of the events in Delhi, a perception has gained ground that the S.P. is politically isolated. Venkitesh Ramakrishnan met Mulayam Singh Yadav for an interview. Excerpts:

In the final analysis, your adamant stand against the Congress(I) scuttled the formation of an alternative government. How do you justify your stand?

I should make it clear that the S.P. did not prevent the formation of an alternative. It was the Congress(I)'s adamant stand of negating the candidature of a wise, senior and renowned leader such as Jyoti Basu for the Prime Minister's post that stood against the formation of the alternative. If only the Congress(I) was ready to atone for its past sins against secularism as well as against secular governments, mid-term elections would not have been inflicted on the country.

Coming to the S.P.'s opposition to a Congress(I) minority government, please remember that the Left parties, such as the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Forward Bloc, and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar's Samajwadi Janata Party, were also against it. Even if the S.P. had extended support, the Congress(I) would not have been able to form the government.

However, the CPI(M) and the RJD blame you.

They have their opinions on the sequence of events. I have mine. But the CPI(M) finally agreed to make Basuji the Prime Minister. The party held the Congress(I) responsible for pushing the country to the polls. The differences within the Left and the RLM will pass. The future will see us working together again.

When the RLM was formed last year, you said that the days of anti-Congressism were over. The RLM asked the Congress(I) to take the lead in toppling the Vajpayee Government and taking over the reins of power at the Centre. Now you say that the Congress(I) and the BJP are two sides of the same coin, but the RJD continues with its earlier position. What caused the change of heart?

If you look at our statements and policies since the formation of the RLM, you will see that there is no change. We wanted the Vajpayee Government to go because we thought that its promotion of the communal and fascist agenda of the Sangh Parivar was not good for the country. And as the Congress(I) was the largest Opposition party, we were ready to give it an opportunity to lead the fight against it. However, throughout the past year the Congress(I) failed miserably in taking up this responsibility. Instead, the Congress(I) helped the Government survive and was hand in glove with it to push through anti-people legislation on patents and insurance. On top of it all, the Congress(I) mouthed the BJP language and asserted its commitment to Hindutva. Congress(I) leaders such as Arjun Singh are trying to teach us the values of secularism. Nothing could be more ludicrous than this. As a matter of fact, the national executive meeting of the S.P. in Bhopal in February highlighted the fact that the rights and interests of the poor majority of the country are not safe with either the BJP or the Congress(I). The welfare of the people can be ensured only by strengthening the Left and democratic forces. The convention had given a clear direction on this question and emphasised the need to build a third front of secular and democratic parties. And, Lalooji was a party to these decisions as he also had attended the conference as a fraternal delegate. Earlier, CPI(M) leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet was the chief guest at a workers' meeting in Etawah, which gave the direction for the decision taken in Bhopal.

There is also the perception that you were hand in glove with the BJP's allies, such as Samata Party leader George Fernandes, to help the BJP-led Government to continue in the caretaker capacity because a BJP government suits you better than a Congress(I) government at the time of elections. It is also said that this association with the Samata Party may lead to an electoral understanding.

These stories are cooked up and are propagated by the Congress(I) and the BJP with one aim - to vilify the S.P. before its supporters. But this will not succeed. The S.P's followers know that I have never been hand in glove with forces inimical to the national interest and communal harmony and will never associate with such forces in the future. George Fernandes is a leader who has lost his great socialist soul to the forces of Hindutva. To think that I will join hands with him is political naivete.

But there is the impression that the S.P. has been isolated from its political friends.

It has been fashionable for long for the representatives of the upper classes, including sections of the media, to "isolate" forces of social justice, such as the S.P. Despite their best efforts we continue to grow from strength to strength. That is because nobody can isolate us from the people. For, we represent the values of secularism, egalitarian development and the dedication to fight communalism and economic policies that militate against the national interest. We will continue our struggle in these directions and you will see the coming elections spring a surprise on all those who have written the S.P's obituary.

Reports from Uttar Pradesh suggest that the minority vote base of the S.P. is shifting towards the Congress(I) in the background of the recent events.

I do not want to comment at length on this. But do you think that the Muslim minority will believe the party that helped the Sangh Parivar demolish the Babri Masjid more than the party that sacrificed its government to protect the masjid? If you have come to such a conclusion, you credit the people with no intelligence. Just wait and see. The people of Uttar Pradesh and the rest of the country will teach the communalists as well as pretenders to secularism a fitting lesson.

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