For the first time the CPI (ML) is fighting elections within the constraints of an alliance. Having won three seats in 2015, when it fought alone amid a wave in favour of RJD-JD (U) alliance, expectations are sky high. CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya speaks of an anti-incumbency wave and anger among voters
This is the first time you are fighting an election in an alliance. What compelled you to do so?
Certainly this is not with the view of winning seats alone. We have demonstrated over and over again that you can independently contest and win seats. In fact, our very emergence in 1989 for the first time when Dalits exercised their franchise, we won the Arrah Lok Sabha seat, against the established political wisdom. The main issue is that BJP poses a real threat to our democracy and constitution. Our primary concern was to ensure consolidation of the anti-BJP vote as much as possible. Of course, we tried in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections too, but it didn’t happen. It was limited to some kind of good will gesture on the part of RJD, where they left one seat for us and we reciprocated by extending support to them. What made it possible this time is that RJD drew its lessons from the 2019 elections and there has been a tremendous demand for this alliance from the ground. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, only on four seats the opposition candidate managed to poll more than four lakh votes; these were the seats where our votes and RJD votes converged. Next to RJD, this is a common knowledge in Bihar, CPI (ML) has the biggest cadre.
Are you happy with the seat sharing arrangement between the opposition mahagatbandhan?
I don’t want to talk about the seat sharing arrangement. Left together got 29 seats, which is less than what the Left should get. So I will not say I am fully satisfied. But this alliance is a result of a felt need of people; it has not been imposed from above, it is a natural alliance that has emerged.
If the mahagatbandhan was to win, will the CPI (ML) be part of the the government?
If you go by our programme, it is unlikely that CPI (ML) will be part of the government. I believe that the Left lends credibility and stability to the government. Right now what we have is a seat sharing arrangement; it is not a front that has emerged through a shared ideological coalition. But definitely there is some ideological common ground to work against BJP and their threat to destroy democracy. Post elections we will take a call. But let me make it very clear, to help form the government and we will see to it that the government delivers. A Common Minimum Programme will emerge.
How hopeful are you that CPI (ML) will be able to better its 1990 record of winning nine seats, in then undivided Bihar.
Certainly we are hopeful. In an election, till the vote is cast and counted, confidence is a very difficult word to use. But politically we are hopeful, particularly, because in the 19 seats we are contesting we have done solid work, decades of struggle and sufficient influence among the people.
This time there is a powerful anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar and anger runs high among people. And this anger doesn’t respect the established social equations and political boundaries. In our areas too, we are finding that cutting across castes, people are responding to our campaign. It is fallacious to think that BJP will emerge unscathed and that the anger is only directed at Nitish Kumar. Probably for the first time in many years, people are disillusioned by Narendra Modi. The lockdown revealed the open secret that migration from Bihar has never really declined because there are no decent employment opportunities in the State. Look at BJP’s cheek, one of their bill boards is about bringing back migrant workers when each of them had to spend out of their pocket to return to their homes.