Ahead of the budget session, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat is clear his party does not want “continued disruption of Parliament”. In an interview with HT, he says the CPM will consult other non-NDA, non-UPA parties on the demand for a JPC into the 2G scam to decide its further course of action. Excerpts:
Q) During the budget session of the parliament, how you will be placing your demand for the JPC to probe 2 G spectrum scam?
We have reiterated the demand for JPC. The government has so far not agreed. In such a situation, what should be our approach in the coming budget session? That will be decided, after consulting all non-NDA, non-UPA parties. We don’t want the continued disruption of the parliament, at the same time given the magnitude of the corruption in the 2 G spectrum affair, we feel nothing short of a JPC will do. And on how to go about it, we will be consulting these parties before the budget session.
Q) Will it be any different from the stand the BJP takes? Last session the principal opposition party led from the front in stalling the proceedings?
We would like to talk to all other parties on what should be our stand. In the first week of February we will consult with all these parties. On what exactly we should do, we will work it out after consulting these parties. We are not for disruption of parliament. At the same we are not going to give up our demand for JPC.
Q) Don’t you think that the disruption will help the government to escape the parliamentary scrutiny on many issues?
There are so many major questions. Union budget is there. We will work out some appropriate method in pursuing our demand for JPC. And how to do it-- we will work it out. I don’t want to speak on behalf of my party yet, because we will like to go along with other parties.
Q) Does that mean that you will be coordinate with the BJP?
As I have told you, have to work it out with our own allies . We have a group of 8-9 parties. We are taking of a common stand. Once we come to a common conclusion then we will see how to talk to others also.
Q) Many would argue the JPC demand has the political objective of summoning the Prime Minister before it, and anyways PM has volunteered to appear before the PAC?
We have never said that PM should appear. The Prime Minister himself said that he would appear before the PAC. Formation of JPC is not predicated on the demand that the Prime Minister has to appear before the JPC. We haven’t made that the central issue. That’s not the major issue for us.
Q) Then why the insistence on the JPC?
We are saying like the Public Accounts Committee which will go through the CAG report for a para-wise scrutiny, the JPC can for a wide ranging enquiry because its some individual aberration.
The 2G spectrum case shows how the entire system was manipulated. Many ministries are involved. The policy issues had been discussed in the government before being implemented. It has other dimensions regarding the corruption issues, including the Raida (Nirra) tapes.
There is a nexus between big business and politicians and bureaucrats. Our interest in getting the 2G enquired into is uncover this nexus also—and how it operates. So that in future there can be some guidelines or pointers on how we should prevent this sort of what one might call suborning of public policy making by lobbyists and vested interest.
That is also one aspect of it. So all these matters should be placed before a wide-ranging parliamentary enquiry. A CBI enquiry can only focus on the narrow aspect of the criminal rot, of who has broken the law. We are taking of the wider aspects of it, that’s a committee of the parliament is best suited to go into it.
I have also said that JPC has can go back to I998-1999 when the new telecom policy was made. It doesn’t have to be for the UPA government, they can go back also.
Q) How do you the political situation in West Bengal , and the continuing violence? Trinamool Congress says that the CPIM) are gaining from the violence?
Three districts of West Bengal are seriously affected by the Maoists violence that’s why the joint security forces were constituted. The situation has been complicated by the support of the main opposition party by the TMC. The TMC has been demanding, right from the beginning the withdrawal of the joint forces. Everybody knows that the Maoists are indulging in large scale violent attack. In last 6 months or so, they have been pushed back.
They are operating only in the remote border areas of three districts. Instead of appreciating the success of this operation, TMC is saying, this operation was meant to help the CPI(M).
This is a very narrow way of looking at things, where the three districts 250 people have died by Maosits violence apart from the police personnels. Saying that the CPM is involed in the violence or gaining from this joint operations, I don’t know the Central government or the Home Minister can subscribe to this?
Q) How do you respond to the charges of party’s armed cadre and the recent exchanges of letters between Union Home Minister and your chief minister?
We have already explained that in West Midnapore district, which is most affected, when the attacks by the Maoists began, many villagers had to leave their homes. They cannot go back, they will be killed. That’s why they are sheltered in various camps set up. These camps still exist. Of course, there have been instances of Maoists targeting such places. But over all what should be noted is the CPI (M) and LF has succeeded in mobilizing people against the Maoists. The last 6 months, it has been seen that place after place people have come out in processions against the Maoists. The Maoists had to move away from Lalgarh also from there they have started their activities. So this is done due to popular resistance. Yes we have played a role in moblising people. But characterizing this as CPM setting up armed camps, I don’t think is the correct way to see the picture.
Q) How you see the political situation for the party in the state ahead of elections as your politburo recently took stock of party's preparations ahead of the assembly elections?
We have noted in the review of our Lok Sabha elections that we have suffered some erosion in support in both rural and urban areas. And we have been working in the last one year to moblise people and win back people who had moved away from us. That’s being done two ways. We have been conducting an extensive political campaign, explaining what the CPI(M) and Left front is doing is doing for addressing the problems of the people. Second mobilizing people on their issues and demands to see that their problems and demands are resolved. We are trying to win back the confidence of the people. According to our assessment, we have made progress. Some of the sections who turned against have come back to the party. The process is going on and we hope that the process is completed before the elections are over. And we will be in a much better position to face the assembly elections.
Q) There are considerable young voters in the state who haven’t seen anything other than the CPI (M) in the state? Some eight lakh voters are in the 18-25 category?
That applies to quite a large number of younger generation of voters. But other in our political campaigns we tell them what are the differences between West Bengal and other places in terms of policies are measures the Government has taken. We are also explaining to them some of the current problems like the price rise is not the making of the state government. We also tell them that whatever we do we also underline the limitations of the state government. The in present set-up we cant get rid of unemployment in West Bengal , for example.
Q) Ahead of the elections, what’s your take on the industrialization policy of the Left in the state? And how it has it fared so far?
In the last four years after the Left front government came in to office again there has been substantial increase in investments in West Bengal and new industries have come up.
Of course, the high profile Tata plant in Singur didn’t materialsie and that doesn’t mean that new industries have not come up. The problem right now after the Tata project issue in Singur is that the Trinamool objects to any new industry or projects, saying that land cannot be taken.
Ironically for some Railway projects Mamata Banejee is facing the same difficulty. In the Nandigram area, the Railways require some land for Railway lines and people are objecting it. Whichever government is there, there has to be development projects for which some land they have to acquire. But her stand has complicated the situation for the future projects also.
Q) There is a cabinet reshuffle now? And how you are you analyzing the performance of the UPA -II government?
The performance of the UPS shows it is removed from the people. Concerns of the people are far away from the government’s horizon. Take the issue of Price rise, single biggest failure of the government. So many steps government could have taken during this period. But it has failed to do so. Some of its own policy measures have actually contributed to the price rise. One is the deregulation of petrol prices. The petrol prove Rs 5.50 hike, (two hikes recently). That is also contributing to inflationary pressure.
Corruption is a major feature which has affected the government. Whether it is the commonwealth games or the 2G, it shows that the rot is quite deep. Government is not willing to face the reality in that sense. I think that its refusal to go for a JPC even part of this unwillingness to accept that the corruption is systemic. The third aspect, everybody, including the ruling party itself feels that the government is adrift, and it has lost its bearings and there is no sense of direction.
Q) The other state where you are in power, Kerala is also going to polls this year. How do you see Left’s prospects there considering the state has a tradition of electing a new government every five year.
We are striving to recover from some of the losses we suffered in the last Lok Sabha elections. There was a minor recovery in the Panchayat and local body elections, but not to the extent we had expected. Kerala there are other factors, which are not there in other parts of the country. Of course two coalitions contest against each other. But there are important sections who can play important role in the elections. We are making serious efforts to reach out to them?