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'We need to take land reform benefits forward'

March 29, 2010 14:13 IST
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With a year to go before the Assembly elections in West Bengal, CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury speaks to Devjyot Ghoshal about the party's strategy and alliances.
The elections in West Bengal are scheduled for early next year. From the CPI(M)'s point of view, is there a strategy that has been worked out?

We think there are two important things that are required for West Bengal. One is to maintain democracy and the rule of civic administration, which is being seriously threatened by anarchic elements and Naxalites, and the nexus between them. The other thing is development because West Bengal has reached a plateau on the basis of achievements from the land reform movement. Now, you have to take that forward. The state government and the party are working on both these tracks.
After the debacle in the last elections, you said there would be some sort of a purge or realignment in the party. You also said that new faces would come in. Have these things happened?

Ours is not an individual-based party. These things happen in parties that are individual-based. Our party is run on the basis of collective functioning. Whatever be the lapses and mistakes, they are being identified and corrected. It is not individual-centric.
But there hasn't been any substantial change, at least from the outside. That is how it seems...

The outside (world) will know the change only when people respond to the change, when there is an occasion. That occasion has not come. But one indicator has been the elections for student unions.
Is that something you are taking seriously? Do you see it as a bellweather?

Of course. The younger generation's preferences are a good indicator. Presidency and the Jadavpur University are no mean institutions. It's a very positive indicator that educated youngsters are thinking this way.
There were reports that you sent feelers to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government. Will you be contemplating an alliance with the Congress for the West Bengal elections?

For the last three decades, our existence in West Bengal has been in opposition to the policies of the Congress. And that is something which continues, whether it is the Budget or the Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage Bill. There are areas in which we have serious differences with them.
There are also areas where we have cooperated with them, such as the Women's Reservation Bill. So, the point is that we take positions on the basis of policies.
There have been no feelers. But I have asked the Congress: Tell me, on price rise, the TMC is not in agreement with you; on the women's Bill, the TMC is not in agreement with you; on fighting the Naxalites, the TMC is not in agreement with you. So, we are saying that with this contradiction, you have to explain to the people how you're coexisting.
Can one conclude you are not ruling out an alliance with the Congress in West Bengal?

No, there is no other implication. All we are saying is that people require an answer. A member of the UPA Cabinet says that she has not been consulted over the Women's Reservation Bill, when the system in our country is that any Bill that comes to Parliament has to be cleared by the Cabinet. How can a Cabinet minister say she has not been consulted?
As a poll plank, how important do you think will the Naxalite issue be?

It will be an important issue. West Bengal, don't forget, has suffered the most due to anarchy and violence in the past. Those memories are still strong. That is the whole tragedy. Forget the political point of who is winning and who is losing. The question is that the state and the people need not be subject to such things.
In West Bengal, there is trouble in both the north and south. With elections expected to take place next year, will your party push for an early resolution of both these issues? If these troubles continue, can they affect the results?

Our point as far as the resolution of the North issue is concerned is that it should be a trilateral agreement. The state government has always said that it is willing to continue these negotiations. I think some talks are going on in New Delhi.
Our position, right from the days of Subash Ghisingh, has been consistent. We are saying that West Bengal has suffered a lot from various divisions. Our point is that let us not subject ourselves to more such problems. That has been our stand and that will continue to be our stand.
On the Naxalite issue, would you like to push Operation Greeenhunt through as soon as possible?
You see, it is a joint operation between the Centre and the states. We are only one of the partners. So, we will go along with the general strategy that's been worked out.

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