My speeches against BJP for not providing jobs have made employment a poll issue in Bihar: Kanhaiya Kumar
Ahead of the Bihar assembly elections, Kanhaiya Kumar, 33, a national executive member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), has urged progressive forces to unite to fight communal, and religious politics. In an interview, he spoke about the polls. Edited excerpts:
The CPI is contesting six seats as part of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led Grand Alliance (GA). How well do you expect the alliance to do?
In the 2019 election, the Left parties tried to ally with RJD but it did not materialise. Probably, the RJD did not feel the necessity for it. The poll outcome with GA winning one seat has made the RJD realise how Left parties are important. ...we have realised when we fight separately, the BJP [Bharatiya Janata party] benefits.
In Bihar, our main agenda is to check communal frenzy and have an understanding with like-minded parties. We have seen how the BJP government’s neo-liberalism and privatisation have led to... poor getting poorer while two big families have become richer. The country’s economy has contracted by minus 24%.
How could it be that few persons get wealthier and masses get poorer? It is the poverty of the masses which is making few people rich. ..we feel, in Bihar, it is relevant because the state suffers from unemployment. Our endeavour is to make Bihar one of the top developed states by using available resources...
Today, employment is the narrative of the state election. Just check my speeches in the last six years. I have made it an issue by not allowing people to forget that the BJP government failed in fulfilling promises like providing 20 million jobs annually and how polarisation on communal lines is created so that farmers and labourers do not ask for their dues.
Why are not you contesting the polls when some believe your candidature would have helped the CPI?
We have gone beyond the political symbolism. To be honest, the CPI does not have the political force to fight a big party like BJP alone. Second, contesting the election is not our only objective. In the last election, I fought and people worked for me. This time, I am working for others. I am a party worker. If the party feels, I should contest the election, or campaign, or even arrange chairs at a meeting, I will do that.
Whatever responsibility is assigned to me, I do that. If I contest polls all the time, what would others do? Contesting election is not the only objective for us as we do politics on policies, issues, and ideology.
Has the CPI accepted Tejashwi Yadav as a chief ministerial candidate?
Tejashwi is RJD’s chief ministerial candidate. For the Left parties, there is no chief ministerial face. We do not do politics of personalities. In Kerala, we did not declare any chief ministerial candidate. In a parliamentary democracy, it is understood that whichever party or alliance gets the highest number of seats, the post goes to it. The CPI has an understanding with the Grand Alliance on a common minimum programme and a joint manifesto. The question of chief minister will come when the election will be over.
Does that mean the CPI has not accepted Tejashwi Yadav?
This is a decision for that party. It is their call whether they want to make Tejashwi as chief minister or Rabri Devi or anybody else. But I feel this question is wrong. This question should not be asked especially to a Left party. Left parties are only contesting 29 seats and the chief minister will not come from this faction. Even Congress is contesting 70 seats and it also does not matter much.
The RJD is contesting 144 seats. It is obvious the chief minister will be from that party. Our policies and issues are important. We want to check the BJP in Bihar and stop the misappropriation of funds in the name of development. There should be actual development. Our issues are unemployment, migration, infrastructure. If the GA gets the majority and RJD makes Tejashwi its chief minister, he will hold the top post. We have no differences.
What are you your views about Nitish Kumar as chief minister?
The GA manifesto talks about taking Bihar ahead. The BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance is talking Bihar backwards. It is for the people to decide what they want. The polling will decide.
Has development taken place in the last 15 years of Nitish Kumar’s rule?
If you compare anything in a critical manner, there is always good and bad. There are also grey areas. There are some things in Bihar over which people appreciate Nitish Kumar. But in the last one year, the way the government has functioned, there is palpable anger against Nitish Kumar.
There is a debate over RJD’s 15-year rule that has been dubbed as Jungle Raj and the good governance model of Nitish Kumar. Even CPI suffered a split when seven lawmakers switched to RJD in 1997. The Left parties have long been opposed to RJD. Is not it odd the CPI is now supporting RJD?
The politics did not start in 1990. ...[in] the post-independence era... CPI was the biggest opposition party. Left and right were in the same government. In 1990, the RJD government was formed, and who all were supporting it. There were CPI and the BJP supporting the government. That means the edifice of the Jungle Raj was laid by the BJP... The JD(U) is an offshoot of the Janata Dal and Nitish Kumar was supported by the BJP. Has not the BJP been a participant in 30 years of politics in Bihar? Lalu Yadav and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi have been products of student politics and they did politics together. This is all a ploy to escape from the larger question.
The CPI suffered its biggest split in 1964. Was Lalu Prasad there at that time? Our priority should be present. Right now, our main focus is to check the communal frenzy and we want to ally with those who will help us in this objective. In 2015, all Left parties fought together. But we realised, it only helped the BJP. So, now we have made a wider alliance on issues and agenda.
The BJP calls you an anti-national. Recently you also said you might even join BJP one day if the people continue to call you that...
I said I will join the BJP mockingly. My point is that whosoever speaks against the BJP is branded as anti-national... Will they say Kanhaiya hails from a poor family and has done PhD or is a good speaker. Yes, the Delhi government has given sanction to file charge sheet in the sedition case against me but the trial has not begun. I want a speedy trial so that justice is delivered. I want the truth to come out so that I could also counter those maligning me. I do not take allegations of the BJP seriously.