West Bengal secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Surjya Kanta Mishra, says the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are one and the same, and both his party's political adversaries. He also says that the policy of his party is to be on a broad platform with Left democratic and secular organisations, and there is no place for the "Bengal TMC" in it.
He refuses to get into the issue of a possible change in this dynamics when it comes to fighting the BJP nationally in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, if one reads between the lines, and tries to make sense of the subtlety of his comments, it seems that the CPI(M) may have shut the door to the TMC in Bengal, but they've not locked it yet. Perhaps now is too early? Watch this space for more.
Mishra is easy to chat with, and we discuss everything from Mamata Banerjee to Marine Le Pen, pro-identity and anti-Islam movements across Europe to nationalism in India, perception to proprioception, rise of the right-wing to the future of the Left – at the CPI(M) state headquarters at Alimuddin Street in Kolkata. He is soft-spoken with an absolutely wicked sense of humour (most of his sarcastic comments and jokes are delivered with a deadpan expression and he quietly enjoys the impact on the listener).
The recent bypoll result in Contai South Assembly constituency indicates that the BJP is now a force to reckon with in West Bengal. Who is a greater evil politically for the Left in the state now – the Trinamool Congress or the BJP?
We are saying, "defeat TMC to save Bengal and defeat BJP to save India." In fact she [Mamata Banerjee] brought the BJP to Bengal. It is also the Trinamool Congress' rule in the state that has led to the rise of the BJP here.
But Mamata Banerjee's association with the BJP has been in the past (she was part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in 1998, and was railways minister in the cabinet), but today she is fighting the BJP. Moreover, BJP's support has increased nationally – even in those states where the TMC has no presence. So why is the TMC responsible for the rise of the BJP in Bengal?
BJP and the TMC are not two entities – they are one. It would be illusory to think that they are separate in their policies. Fascistic forces can create such illusions in the minds of people. Today, in the country, there is attack on people's social security and livelihood, fascistic attack on democracy and on secularism. The policies of both these parties are such that they help each other to survive and to thrive.
There has been a rise of the pro-identity right-wing politics throughout Europe, and India is also witnessing increased support for right-wing groups. Where is the place of the Left in this?
Earlier, rationalism could take the lead, and the revolutionary class stood against the feudal system. Now, the world has shifted to the Right, there has been a rise of the right-wing politics. India has been witnessing identity politics, crony capitalism and the financial crisis is still not over – there is no employment, no production. And it is to divert attention from all this that different perceptions are being created through social media, and intolerance is so rampant. It is like watching Manmohan Desai's films where you don't have to think, there is no need for rationalism.
But people will learn from their experiences. What is happening now, is what people are perceiving as the reality. They "think" this is reality, but they are just made to see things in a particular way. What they see is just an illusion. Religion is reflection of reality, but communalism is not. Preprioception, which is a reflection of the reality, is the only thing that can fight illusion. We have to present that reality before the people.
"But people will learn from their experiences. What is happening now, is what people are perceiving as the reality. They "think" this is reality, but they are just made to see things in a particular way."
Coming back to the political scenario in Bengal, why are you saying that there has been a match-fixing between BJP and TMC, when they are tooth and nail against each other? Do people believe this theory?
Both TMC and BJP are together and their policy is to oust the Left. Moreover, why are the TMC leaders not being arrested? Why is she (Mamata Banerjee) being spared when she is the leader of the party?
Mamata Banerjee is trying to bring together all the non-BJP forces – as many regional parties as possible – for fighting the ruling party at the Centre in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. What will be the role of the CPM and other Left parties in this? Will you join her to fight the BJP?
Election is not the primary question. Our policy is to be with anti-communal forces, and to be on a broad platform with Left democratic and secular forces. That is the pre-condition, and the Bengal TMC has no place in it.
Which means that this strategy could be altered when it comes to the elections, and it is not impossible that there could be an alliance with the TMC in 2019 nationally to stop the BJP from forming the government?
Our policy is to be with anti-communal forces, and to be on a broad platform with Left democratic and secular forces. That is the pre-condition, and the Bengal TMC has no place in it.
Now, you are putting words into my mouth. I have already made clear whatever I had to say. Election is not the issue, our main task at hand is to fight both the TMC and the BJP.
The Left parties had had an electoral tie-up in the 2016 Assembly polls in Bengal with the Congress, while the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are now on a great rapport nationally. In retrospect, how does the party look at the alliance with the Congress in Bengal?
It was part of our strategy to create a broad platform with Left democratic and secular forces. And it follows from the resolution of our plenum. We call this a "platform", and we formed this platform with the Congress to fight the TMC in Bengal. Our policy is also to increase our individual strength.
But people do learn from their experiences. Those in Uttar Pradesh are also learning. And do remember, the dangerous path the right wing groups are treading these days and the way they are instigating people won't leave them unscathed.
Can the Left parties in Bengal stage a turnaround? How will it happen?
People learn from experiences. In the five states where Assembly elections were held recently, the BJP's win has not been uniform everywhere. It hasn't got majority everywhere. The Left Front will increase its strength in the coming days, there will be a common platform of the Left and other democratic parties.
But the fact is that the people in this state who used to carry red flags with hammer and sickle are now chanting Jai Shri Ram and observing Rama Navami. And Bengal has a history of a sharp Hindu-Muslim divide, exchange of inflammatory words between the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League throughout the 1940s, and the communal riots of Calcutta in August 1946 that go down in history as one of the worst episodes of mass violence in India.
People do not want to fight against each other. It is the leaders of political parties that make them perceive things in a particular way. It had been the same thing in the past. But people do learn from their experiences. Those in Uttar Pradesh are also learning. And do remember, the dangerous path the right wing groups are treading these days and the way they are instigating people won't leave them unscathed.
We will continue to build on our strength – our independent strength and that of other democratic forces on a common platform in the coming days.