Tag Archives: Jaswant Singh

Darjeeling At The Crossroads

by Bappaditya Paul

WHEN Franklin Prestage laid the railway tracks to Darjeeling Hills in 1879, in order to conquer the insurmountable steep incline, he employed a unique technique called the ‘Z-reverse’.1

‘Z-reverse’ is an ingeniously simple concept: while negotiating with the steep hill, the train climbs up a slope into a shunting neck and stops. It then backs up another steep incline reaching the other shunting neck higher up and there from, resumes the onward journey but at a higher level.

"The Statesman Festival 2009" published in October The inherent philosophy propelling the ‘Z-reverse’ technique is: when you cannot really move forward, better make a retreat and then find a new way ahead.

But for Franklin Prestige putting to use this commonsense, Darjeeling Hills would have never got to see the steam locomotives chugging at 7,400 feet above the sea level.

In 2005, Subash Ghisingh too, rightly embraced commonsense and reasoning when he agreed to the inclusion of Darjeeling Hills in the Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution.

This was to facilitate a greater autonomy to Darjeeling, which has been demanding a separate statehood out of West Bengal.

A significant move it was. For, Ghisingh had been the man who had propagated the bloodstained Gorkhaland movement in the 1980’s. At that time, he acted like a stubborn leader, who did not dodge from the statehood demand until a large number of cadres were killed in the agitation.

Darjeeling got an autonomous governing body ~ the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), in 1988. DGHC was set up under a state Act. But Ghisingh realised the achievement came too costly against the massive bloodbath that the agitation had incurred.

Thus, when he got a second chance to bargain in 2005, instead of waging another bloody agitation over the statehood demand, his political maturity guided him to accept the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling.

Those in the know-how of the Sixth Schedule provisions would acknowledge, it was indeed going to be a remarkable step forward towards fulfilling Darjeeling’s aspiration for self-governance.2

More importantly, the achievement was coming without any fresh agitation on the ground or mindless insurgency, as has been the case with the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.

It was surely a compromise, but never the end of the statehood prospects. The simple reason being that the Constitution of India was not obliterating the clause pertaining to the creation of new states. Nowhere in the Constitution there is any implicit or explicit mention that an area governed under the Sixth Schedule, cannot become a full-fledged state in future.

But Ghisingh’s political rivals misinterpreted the implications of the Sixth Schedule status on Darjeeling and compelled the Union government to shelve the idea midway.

The common public in Darjeeling, who were discontent with Ghisingh for his inept handling of the DGHC and growing isolation from the masses, swallowed the misinformation campaign. The ‘king of Darjeeling’ was dethroned overnight.

But the political culture of hero-worshipping has not ended in Darjeeling. Only that now Ghisingh has been replaced with Bimal Gurung and the GNLF with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha or the GJMM.

Bimal Gurung
Bimal Gurung

In the past one and half year of his political reign that commenced in October 2007, Gurung and his party have gifted Darjeeling unrest and anarchy, all but for the demanded Gorkhaland.

His achievement so far ~ stalling of the proposed Sixth Schedule status, dethroning and ousting Ghisingh and other GNLF leaders from the Hills and compelling the Union government in convening tripartite talks on the Darjeeling impasse.

All these are but negative achievements and have facilitated nothing other than coagulating Gurung’s control over the Hills. But negative achievements can hardly hold public sentiment to ransom for a prolonged period.

Had not Gurung imported the BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling, by now, he would have probably found place in the political history of the Queen of Hills. Jaswant returning as a MP from Darjeeling has certainly extended the life span for the GJMM. But the NDA’s defeat has turned this extended breath completely useless.

Now, the GJMM has a friend in BJP that is only capable of paying lip service to Gorkhaland and an all-omnipotent foe called the Congress, which would not yield an inch to fulfill the statehood demand.

UPA government’s second-in-command, Pranab Mukherjee, has already made this clear and loud. As the GJMM leaders try to play down Mukherjee’s comments arguing that his is not the government, they are only living in self-denial for obvious political reasons.3

But conceding the reality, ally BJP has already advised the GJMM to go slow on the statehood movement. BJP leaders have called for reformulating a long-drawn strategy, replacing the March 2010 deadline that Gurung has set for achieving Gorkhaland.

Jaswant Singh and Bimal Gurung

If the agitation goes the other way around, it is only obvious that the saffron party would distance itself from the GJMM. After all the BJP cannot act as parochial as the GJMM over the Gorkhaland issue, for unlike the latter, its political sphere is not limited to Darjeeling.

Also the BJP West Bengal unit is openly against the Gorkhaland demand and it is a signatory to the all-party motion adopted by the state Assembly ruling out any further division of Bengal.4

Given the scheme of things, the obvious question now is ~ what can happen to Darjeeling? How can Darjeeling be freed of the suffocating state that it has slipped into?

To be candid, the probability of statehood is bleak, at least in the near future.

This is not only because West Bengal would do the last thing but part with Darjeeling. But the Union government too would not concede the demand, because, granting statehood to the Darjeeling district (even ignoring the fact that Siliguri is dead against the Gorkhaland demand), would surely open up a floodgate.

Every other district or region in India that represents one community or the other would start claiming statehood and there would be no end to it. The statehood demands for Telegana, Vidharva, Bundelkhand, Bodoland and several others are already active.

Bimal Gurung may stay adamant and shutdown the Darjeeling Hills for months, but that can hardly compel the UPA government to treat Darjeeling as a special case.

Subash Ghising

Gurung’s outfit has raised a voluntary youth force ~ the Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP), which is being imparted physical training by ex-Army men. The GLP are equipped with batons, as of now.

Some 4000-odd GLP cadres have already been deployed in the Hills to ensure “public discipline” during the shutdowns called over Gorkhaland demand. There are also reports of the GLP confiscating illegal liquor and so on.5

But to think of waging an armed rebellion in the coming days, so to pressurise the Union government concede the statehood for Darjeeling, would prove irresponsible and futile. The immediate instance is the Bodoland insurgency in Assam. In the past one-decade or so, hundreds of Bodo militants have died in pursuance of the statehood agitation but have achieved nothing.

Moreover, waging insurgency over political demands only allows the authorities to take a military approach on the pretext of national security. Darjeeling’s geographical proximity to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China would only bolster the approach further.

GLP cadres on patrol

The bottom line is until and unless the Union adopts a holistic approach towards the active statehood demands or constitutes another State Reorganising Committee as is being suggested from several quarters, Darjeeling attaining statehood is completely an improbable proposition.

Under these circumstances, the best option before Gurung is to renegotiate the Sixth Schedule status that he had denounced earlier. Gurung can ask for some Darjeeling specific amendments in the Sixth Schedule clause and there should not be any problem for the Union government to concede.

By doing so, Gurung would be in a position to convince his followers that there is much difference between the Sixth Schedule of Ghisingh and the one that he has negotiated.

But if Gurung really feels serious about this, he will have to act fast. Fast enough before the Opposition overpowers the current Left Front government in West Bengal in 2011. It is now almost apparent that in the 2011 Assembly polls, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul would dethrone the Left Front from Writers’.

Once that happens, it would be truly difficult for Gurung even to bag the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, leave aside the demanded statehood. For, new into power, Mamata would not take the risk of annoying the majority sentiment in the state, which is evidently against granting any further autonomy to Darjeeling.

Moreover, considering that CPI-M is likely to play the role of a well-informed and organised Opposition, Mamata would be excessively cautious to avoid any criticism projecting her as an “anti-Bengal” element from the parochial point of view. Being an important ally of the UPA, Trinamul would also keep the Centre at bay from meddling into the affair.

This means Darjeeling would have no other option but to wait till 2016, if not more.

Gorkhaland agitation

Hence, the best time for Gurung to negotiate the Darjeeling issue (even if as an interim measure) is right now. The more closer the state gets to the 2011 Assembly elections, the less inclined the Left Front government would be to grant Darjeeling the Sixth Schedule autonomy. This is irrespective of the fact that the state government was in agreement to this effect.

Even on accepting a renegotiated Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling, Gurung can still carry forward the campaign for Gorkhaland in conjunction with other statehood demands like the Telengana. The focus of such a united campaign would be to bring about a policy direction in the Indian Union, vis-à-vis the creation of new states.

Bimal Gurung

There is another option though. That is, instead of accepting the Sixth Schedule arrangement, Gurung can allow the existing autonomous council ~ the DGHC to function, while sustaining the statehood campaign simultaneously. This would however, prove less remunerative for Bimal Gurung, but that’s how politics progress.

Many a times, one needs to halt back and employ the ‘Z-reverse’, keeping an eye on the steep incline. After all politics is seldom a straight drive.

1 Souvenir, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 125 Glorious Years, 2006, CPRO, NF Railway, Guwahati.

2 VI Schedule, The Constitution of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.

3 Pranab rules out Gorkhaland demand, The Statesman, North Bengal & Sikkim Plus, Dt. 20 July 2009.

4 Bengal BJP flays Jaswant Gorkhaland stand, says will hit party, The Indian Express, New Delhi, Dt 20 July 2009.

5 Morcha displays ‘seized’ liquor, The Telegraph, North Bengal & Sikkim, Dt. 7 August 2009.

[The author is a senior journalist with The Statesman (India), currently based at Siliguri and has been reporting on the Darjeeling fiasco since 2005. This article originally appeared in The Statesman Festival Number 2009]


BJP-Jaswant discord not new

by Bappaditya Paul

Jaswant Singh might have been expelled from the BJP only this week, but the discord between the political stalwart and the party had probably begun way back in April when the BJP nominated him for the Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling.
Jaswant Singh
As per sources close to Mr Singh, the former external affairs minister was “upset” when the party “pushed” him to Darjeeling under a pact with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) ~ the proponent of a separate Gorkhaland state out of West Bengal.

Mr Singh was aware of the opposition to the Gorkhaland demand in the plains of Darjeeling and hence, did not take it easily when the BJP pushed a leader of his stature to the controversial constituency. The BJP top brass did so even as the GJMM’s first choice, Mr SS Ahluwalia, had declined the offer to contest from Darjeeling.

But already in discomfort with the cash-distribution controversy at the Barmer election rally; the Rajasthani politician accepted the party’s decision without an open fuss. Yet he never expressed exhilaration at being nominated from Darjeeling.

In an interview to The Statesman (published on 19 April) prior to the Lok Sabha polls, Mr Singh was asked why he had chosen to contest from Darjeeling. The veteran’s response was: “I didn’t choose. My party said we need to send somebody senior to Darjeeling this time and you have to go. And being a loyal, obedient member of the party, I said fine and that’s why I am here.”

Mr Singh’s close associates also testify his displeasure on being sent to Darjeeling. “Mr Singh had no reason, whatsoever, to go to Darjeeling unless the party had pushed him,” said one of his close aides, unwilling to be named.

Some of his associates also viewed the BJP’s move as a ploy to alienate the veteran politician from the national arena. “Remember, he was the only leading face in the BJP who does not come from a RSS background and there was always some itching at his rise in the party,” said another aide.

But the Colonel-turned-politician returned to Delhi with a landslide victory from Darjeeling. In fact, contrary to the general expectations, by way of his individual charisma, Mr Singh got over 85,000 votes from the Siliguri plains of the constituency that is a sworn opponent of the Gorkhaland demand.
Jaswant Singh

Thus, after the results showed the BJP’s near rout across India, it was Mr Singh’s turn to take on the party top brass. In TV interviews, he openly started criticising the party leadership for the poll debacle and also raised questions on the concept of “Hindutva”, thus inviting an orchestrated opposition from the RSS brigade. Finally, his book praising Jinnah facilitated an excuse to show him the door.

But by now, the 71-year old politician too is probably not averse to sacrificing his saffron-image. For, after spending four long decades in politics, Mr Jaswant Singh is now more willing to be revered as a statesman, than a face of the “conservative” BJP.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 21 August 2009)

‘Varun not BJP’s benchmark’

Interview ~ Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

by Bappaditya Paul

A former Union minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy is now a national spokesperson of the BJP. Mr Rudy recently spoke to BAPPADITYA PAUL on the post-poll controversies that are pilloring the BJP and the saffron brigade’s plan for rejuvenation.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

After 2004, this time too, you lost the Lok Sabha election against Lalu Prasad. What really went wrong?

I must appreciate one point: whatever be the impression about Mr Prasad outside, in the past five years, his contribution to the parliamentary constituency of Chhapra (Saran) has been immense.

I don’t think in any district of Bihar, ever since Independence, so much investment was proposed with several railway projects to the tune of over Rs 8,000 crore. So, a parliamentary constituency getting so large an investment probably had a positive impact on the electorate in Mr Prasad’s favour.

Yet, I increased my vote share by about one lakh from the previous election. Out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, there are 26 seats where the winning candidates got less votes than me.

That’s why, I lost the election, but don’t stand defeated.

But wouldn’t these repeated failures affect your political career?

No, I don’t think so. My party chose to pitch me against Mr Prasad because I was considered the fittest one to take on a leader of his stature.

I may have lost, but the fact remains that my candidature from Saran created a real buzz and everyone was forecasting Mr Prasad’s defeat in the seat. Even Mr Prasad was so unsure of his win from Saran that he was compelled to contest from the Patna constituency also as a fallback plan.

And the deceptive wave that Mr Prasad is losing in Saran adversely affected his party’s poll prospects across Bihar. So, I virtually became a martyr and my martyrdom in Saran gave victory to the ruling NDA in the state.

Coming to the BJP’s poor show in this Lok Sabha election, what according to you went wrong?

It was because of the pre-election contradictions, clearly visible now, that we could not fare as expected in the polls.

But I personally feel that following the party’s National Executive meeting in Delhi on 21-22 June, the contradictions have more or less been sorted out.

All the grievances have been vented. All those view points, which were not taken into consideration earlier, were considered and those aspects, which are important for the party to reorganise itself, have been taken note of.

I believe things are falling in line now and we have the stamina to face the defeat and start the resurgence process.

But post-election, a serious question is occupying the public space. That is, which Hindutva the BJP stands for ~ the “inclusive” Hindutva that the party puts on record or Varun Gandhi’s brand of Hindutva that seems to be in practice?

It is really a sad situation that we need to define Hindutva again and again, especially in the BJP. The BJP and the RSS have always talked of Hindutva in the inclusive sense.

The inclusive Hindutva , which talks of tolerance, which talks of giving space to all religious denominations. We talk of constitutional propriety; we talk about nationalism or Indianism, which is part of a larger geo-cultural concept.

For us, all these sum up to a tolerant Hindutva and there is no scope for fundamentalism in it.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy BJP

But Varun Gandhi’s speeches during the campaign did not toe this line.

Absolutely not. (What Varun said) was never the party line and I say it categorically.

Why didn’t the BJP stop Varun when he went on making speeches violating the party line?

The party disassociated itself from his words. We were against the National Security Act being imposed on him, but no one at any given point of time endorsed his speeches.

Yet the BJP did not deny him a ticket?

That does not happen in politics. If an individual commits a mistake then there are processes in the party (based) on which, one has to take a decision.

The fact that the NSA was imposed on Varun created a situation that he had to be given the opportunity (to contest on party ticket). But we have categorically said that any individual should not become so important that he makes an ideological benchmark.

Varun is not a benchmark for the BJP’s ideology, but if you want to make him a benchmark, it is for you to decide and not us.

In an interview to NDTV, Jaswant Singh too has said that there was ambiguity on the BJP’s definition of Hindutva. How does the party response to that?

Mr Singh raised the issue prior to the party National Executive meeting in Delhi. But when the National Executive took place on 21-22 June, it was again reiterated that when the BJP talks about Hindutva ~ it is the inclusive one.
Mr Singh is now completely convinced, for he only wanted this explanation.

What about Yaswant Sinha? He has resigned from party positions calling for the top brass to take responsibility for the poll defeat.

He has expressed his point of view, and I think he did cross, emotionally trespassed, his own position by tendering resignation from party posts and that’s why his resignation was instantly accepted.

But what about the point that he has raised?

There are many issues that are raised and all such issues were raised openly during the National Executive meeting. But Mr Sinha made his point prior to the meeting and tendered his resignation.

If he was there at the National Executive, he could have raised the issue. But he crossed the emotional barrier and that was a mistake.

As far as fixing the responsibility for the electoral defeat is concerned, the National Executive heard all viewpoints and then gave LK Advani a full mandate to act on those.

While the party has removed Uttarakhand chief minister BC Khanduri for the poll debacle in that state, no heads are rolling at the central level?

The change of leadership in Uttarakhand was in consideration much before the parliamentary elections. It is not an outcome of the defeat. The change in leadership there cannot be exclusively attributed to as fixing the responsibility for poll debacle.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

What about the issue of passing the party leadership to younger hands?

This is a wrong question being posed. The BJP possibly has the largest spectrum of young leaders and the party does not only have first general leaders; we already have in place the second generation or third generation leaders and the fourth generation is just behind.

We have or had chief ministers like Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje, Sushil Kumar Modi or for that matter Narendra Modi ~ they are all young and can easily be categorised as the second or third generation leaders. Then we had several young Union ministers whether it was me, Shahnawaz Hussain, Ravi Shankar Prasad ~ many of them.

So, to say that there is a resistance in the BJP to allow the second generation leaders to come forward, is wrong. The second and third generation leaders are already playing very critical roles in the party.

By simply positioning someone in the Congress party who is a part of the dynastic rule, does not mean that the BJP which has hard groomed individuals, do not have a young face.

Can Narendra Modi be the BJP’s future face?

Well, Mr Modi is the chief minister of Gujarat and I think he has done very well there.

So you are not endorsing Mr Modi as the party face?

I am not the right person to decide his fate and being the party spokesperson, I cannot give my personal opinion.

Lastly, what are the BJP’s rejuvenation plans after this electoral rout?

It is not a rout; it’s a setback. The people of India have given the BJP the mandate to be the principal Opposition party and we still run six state governments.

The National Executive has chalked out an action plan that begins with the new membership drive and then organisational elections.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This interview originally appeared in The Statesman on 11 July 2009)

“Will rework Nuclear Deal if Third Front comes to power”

Interview ~ Sitaram Yechuri, CPI-M Politburo member

by Bappaditya Paul

Desperate to see a Third alternative government at the Centre, the CPI-M this time is too busy in the permutation and combination of smaller parties like never before. And with its man for all seasons, Mr Sitaram Yechuri on the prowl, both the Congress and the BJP must worry about their flocks. In an exclusive interview with BAPPADITYA PAUL, Mr Yechuri throws light on the goings-on at the backstage and the proposed priorities of the Third alternative government, if that happens at all.

Sitaram Yechuri


Q After the 2004 elections, CPI-M supported the Congress to keep the BJP away from power. But this time around, what will be your priority ~ to stop the BJP or the Congress?

~ Both. We want to stop both the Congress and the BJP from occupying the power and instead, form a Third alternative government at the Centre.

Q In every practical sense, what you foresee the outcome of this polls?

~ Well, what I foresee is that the final act of this drama will unfold only post elections. This is in the nature of the political developments in the last two decades or so that, it is only post elections that the ruling front is formed. This happened in 1996 with United Front been formed post elections, in 1998 NDA been formed after the elections and in 2004 UPA formed after the elections.

So this time around what we are working for is a post election non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

Q But is it really practical to think of a non-Congress, non-BJP front to occupy the power?

~ Well, this will be a new thing. I understand when people say, if it is viable, if the arithmetic will work? But remember when the 14th Lok Sabha ended, the total of the BJP and Congress MPs was less than the majority for the first time. So that’s an indication, in which way the wind is blowing.

And as you can see, more and more BJP or Congress allies like the BJD, AIADMK or the RJD, NCP has either deserted them or is keeping the options open. That’s why I say; concretely it will depend on the post election arithmetic.

During the interview with Sitaram Yechuri on 20 April 2009

Q Given the kind of alliances that we are witnessing this time, is ideological politics have become a thing of the past even for the Left?

~ No, no, that’s not true. We have been the one who constituently stuck to our ideological positions and we continue to do that. Because what is the necessity for such formation. You see, every time ~ 1996 or 2004, there was always the objective to stop the BJP from coming to the power which we believed, had to be achieved at that point of time for the future development of our country.

Here at the present moment, the objective is to give an alternative policy direction to the country and this we believe is very very important both for tackling the Capitalist global recession and also for the growing problems within the country like terrorism, social injustice etc. So who will affect a shift in this policy direction, that’s the issue.

Sitaram Yechuri

Q Do you see the parties like AGP, NCP etc as potential Third alternative partners post elections?

~ As far as the AGP is concerned, I would consider it as most unnatural alliance with the BJP. Remember, the AGP was an important element in the formation of the United Front in 1996 and it was the UF that initiated the process of treating the Northeast as a special case ~ announcing special package for the NE, North East Council and so on.

All these were actually the contributions of a non-Congress, non-BJP government. So the AGP sticking with the BJP, I think its most unnatural. Lets see, what happens after the elections. Again our party is already into an election alliance with the NCP in Orissa.

Q Are you trying to woo others like the RJD, LJP?

~ Actually, today there is no need to go and woo anybody. Because the parties themselves are fairly mature and my observations in the last six months say that each of these parties are under tremendous pressure from their own social following. People are yearning for change and its now up to us, the political leadership, to give a tangible expression to the public sentiment.

Now, this pressure is working upon every small/regional party leadership and thus, some of them are already in touch (with us) for post poll tie-ups.

Q Does that include Mr Lalu Prashad?

~ Yes, he is in touch.

Q Can the Samajwadi Party also be a post-poll ally?

~ Well, we have appealed to all secular parties to come forward. We have worked with them in the past, so that should not be a problem.

Q Given the fact that both SP and BSP can’t be on the same boat, who would be your choice?

~ These are the things we will decide post elections. We have an understanding with the BSP that we would work together post elections. Now this working together is crucially depending on its political strength post elections.

Q But even after all this permutation and combinations, if the numbers are still not enough for the Third alternative to form a government, will the CPI-M concede to outside support from the Congress, like 1996?

~ Our objective would be not to have such a situation. Because, it was always the outside support that was the cause for instability of the previous governments be it (late Mr) VP Singh, (Mr) Devegowda or (Mr) Gujaral. Therefore, our objective would be to work for a government without the need for outside support.

Sitaram Yechuri

Q So under any circumstances, the Left won’t do business with the Congress again?

~ Well, this is a question, which will have to be considered on the situations that emerge after the polls. But right now, our focus is to form a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative government.

Q You broke up with the Congress because of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. If the Congress decides to drop the Nuclear Deal as per the Left’s wishes, will you back the Congress then?

~ If the Congress was to drop the Nuclear Deal, why it went with it in the first place? If the deal was not an important thing (for it), then why they break such a stable arrangement with us? I don’t think this will happen; much water has passed by this time.

Q But if a Third alternative really comes to power, as you are envisaging, would you rework the Nuclear Deal?

~ Yes. Certainly we will rework the deal in the sense that there are provisions in the 123 Agreement that and our objective would be to eliminate all the baggage that came with the Nuclear Deal. Nuclear commerce per se is not any problematic; the problem is the conditions that have come with it.

There are pressures on our foreign policy, on defence agreements and understanding, the logistic support like refueling etc that we have to give to the USA whenever it undertakes any military adventure. All these conditions will have to be eliminated.

Q Would the Left, particularly, the CPI-M join the Third alternative government if that really happens?

~ We are bound by our 1998 party Congress decision, which says if there is such a situation in future, the Central Committee of the time would take a decision whether to join the government or not. So now we will have to wait till the elections are over and then the Central Committee would meet.

Q So you are not ruling out the possibility?

~ Yes. I said, the CC would discuss this and take a decision.

Q Of late, the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr LK Advani are involved in a debate attacking each other. How do you evaluate the episode?

~ Neither of them have anything concrete to offer to the people. They are not able to offer anything tangible to offer the people and in the absence of this, they have indulged in hurling charges and counter charges. The whole thing is so surreal. I must say, both PM and Mr Advani has stooped to the same level.

Sitaram Yechuri

Q Coming to West Bengal, what is your take on the Congress-Trinamul alliance?

~ What was de facto arrangement between the Congress and the TMC has now become a de jure arrangement. So lets see what impact it can possibly have this elections.

Q Given the trend in the recent panchayat, by-polls in WB, do you think that the common people are shifting away from the CPI-M?

~ No, I don’t think so. Whatever loss we have suffered was primarily because of the differences within the LF allies. But now the LF unity has considerably improved and it is our great source of strength. The common people too are realising that the LF government is on the right path vis-à-vis industrialisation and development.

Q Last General Elections, the Left’s MP tally was around 60. Where would the number stand this time?

~ I am not an astrologer. But whatever be the number this time, one thing is sure that politics in India without the Left is not possible anymore.

Sitaram Yechuri

Q It was the undivided CPI that raised the issue of separate homeland for the Gorkhas, but now your party says that Gokhaland demand is unacceptable. Has Bengali chauvinism taken over the CPI-M’s policy on this?

~ Certainly not. We are not only saying no to Gorkhaland, but are also opposed to the demand for other smaller states that exists elsewhere in the country, like Telegana, Bhidarva etc.

We are opposing not because of the sentiments in the concerned region, our opposition stands on the solid reasoning that after the loss of so many lives and debates in between 1953-56, we came to the final conclusion that new sates will be formed on the basis of dominant language.

So what we are saying that do not disturb the basis for this state reorganisation. The moment you deviate, a Pandora’s box will open up and there will be no end to it that will ultimately weaken the country.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman, India/ The highlights of this interview appeared in The Statesman on 23 April 2009)