(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 13 , 2008
INTERVIEW WITH Prakash Karat
'Left Will Vote Against Govt'
The Left parties will vote against the Manmohan Singh government in the vote of confidence because of its betrayal of national interests, asserted CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat. The Left will continue working to ensure that the India-US nuclear deal does not get operationalised during the tenure of this government. Charging the Congress of failing to check communal forces, he said the CPI(M) and Left parties will continue to combat the Hindutva and communal forces.
In an interview to People's Democracy after announcing the withdrawal of Left parties' support to the UPA government, Karat answered various questions relating to the present political situation.
Below we give excerpts of the interview:
(Q) Why have the Left parties withdrawn support to the government at this juncture?
Four years ago the Left parties decided to extend support to the UPA government to keep the communal forces at bay. But now the prime minister and the Congress leadership have decided to go ahead with the India-US nuclear deal. By this they have gone back on their word given in November 2007 that they will go to IAEA for negotiations, come back and place it before the Left parties and if the Left opposes, the government will not proceed.
The first reason for the withdrawal of support is Manmohan Singh government going for a strategic alliance with US, in which nuclear deal is the key. Such an alliance will have serious repercussions for our independent foreign policy and entangle India in a military alliance of US. Our economic policies will also be geared to what America dictates.
Bush has proved to be the most aggresive imperialist president America has seen. What is India's interest in aligning with such a government? Bush is now threatening to attack Iran. Can India go along with this? Under US pressure we are maintaining close military ties with Israel. The Left cannot be party to such policies.
The second reason why we are withdrawing support is because of the UPA government's utter failure to check price rise and inflation. For the past one year we have seen how the prices of all foodstuffs –– rice, wheat, edible oil etc –– are shooting up, making the life of ordinary people unbearable. This government which is wedded to neo-liberal policies refuses to take steps necessary to check price rise. They do not want to expand public distribution system. They still want to maintain the bogus distinction between Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards. All the proposals of the Left to curb the price rise have been rejected. Why can't they stop future trading in essential commodities? Why are they refusinig to impose windfall profit tax on private oil refineries such as Reliance?
When the Left parties met the prime minister, he told us “Political parties should not politicise the misery of people”. What are political parties expected to do except to take up people's issues. This is the outlook which pervades the government.
It is the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the Manmohan Singh government which has resulted in its failure to tackle the agrarian crisis and distress of farmers.
The Left parties had expected the UPA government to make a break from the BJP-led NDA government's right-wing economic policies. That is why pro-people measures were included in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). But you cannot expect those who look up to Washington, the World Bank and the IMF to put in place pro-people policies.
(Q) Is not the Left isolated on the nuclear deal?
From July 2005 when the first announcement of India-US nuclear deal was made during prime minister's visit to Washington, the CPI(M) and the Left parties have been opposing the strategic alliance with US and the nuclear deal. It is the consistent opposition of the strategic alliance and deal by the Left that has brought out the dangers of these moves into mainstream discussion. It is not we but the government which is isolated on this issue. The discussion in parliament in November-December 2007, in both the Houses, showed that the government is in minority on this issue.
We have already asked the Congress party to go to people in the next election on this issue. We are confident the people will reject their stance.
(Q) Do you think the nuclear deal will go through now?
We are clear, as far as we are concerned we will fight at every stage to ensure that it will not get operationalised. At present we are opposing finalisation of the Safeguards Agreement with IAEA. Why is the government keeping the text secret? This is the habit of Congress whenever it is in government. In 1991 when Manmohan Singh was finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government, the government made an agreement with the IMF for a $5 billion loan. When we asked them what conditionalities have been accepted, they refused to divulge the text of the agreement. It was the CPI(M) which procured the document from Washington and published the full text.
The present government has made all sorts of fantastic claims about what they achieved in the Safeguards Agreement. Our understanding is that none of these can be provided. How can IAEA give assurance on fuel supply when their job is only of a regulatory authority? All the provisions of Hyde Act which nullify full civilian nuclear cooperation with India are still in force.
We will work to ensure that the deal does not get operationalised during the life of the Manmohan Singh government.
(Q) The Congress party is confident that it will win a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha. How will the political situation develop after the Left breaks with the UPA?
The UPA government has lost legitimacy after the withdrawal of support by the Left parties. They have to get a vote of confidence in Lok Sabha. Our stand, irrespective of what others do, is that the Left will vote against the government for their betrayal of national interests.
One must not forget that Congress and UPA are losing ground among the people. This is the political reality. Our recent Party Congress has made this assessment. If anybody wants to hitch their fortunes with Congress, that is their business.
(Q) The Congress and its allies are charging that the Left's stand will help the BJP and the communal forces. What is your response?
As I have said earlier, we maintained our support to UPA all these years to isolate communal forces. But since the beginning of 2007 we have seen how Congress is failing to check communal forces. In election after election in states, Congress party has lost to BJP. Why is it so? It is because wherever Congress governments exist, their economic policies affect people and create discontent, and facilitate BJP's comeback. Moreover, they do not fight BJP politically and ideologically as the Left does. By pursuing similar policies as the BJP at the centre, be it in foreign policy or economic policies, the people cannot differentiate between the two.
The CPI(M) and the Left parties will continue to combat the Hindutva and communal forces.
(Q) What does the Party and the Left propose to do now?
Immediately the Left parties are going to conduct a countrywide campaign explaining the reasons for withdrawal of support. We will also explain the Congress-led UPA government's pro-American and anti-people policies which are resulting in price rise and other problems. We will rally other democratic and secular forces who do not want either the Congress or BJP to be the only alternative choices.
In the course of this campaign we shall also be placing before the people the alternative to meet the nation's energy requirements for development and for putting an end to economic policies which are harming the farmers, rural poor, workers and other sections.
(Q) Is there any hope for third alternative now?
We made it clear in the recent Party Congress our understanding of the third alternative. It should be based on a common programme of alternative policies to those of Congress and BJP and must be forged through joint campaigns and struggles. We have seen the experience of a formation like the UNPA, it will not last. A third alternative will emerge only when Left and other forces fight on people's issues and for alternative policies. It is a mistake to link such alternative to some election or other. The field is wide open for the Left to take the initiative to gather other forces.