Surjya Kanta Mishra was elected Communist Party (Marxist) state secretary in March 2015 when, after suffering back-to-back electoral debacles, the party was in total disarray in West Bengal and its cadres demoralised. In less than a year, he has strengthened the party organisation and galvanised the cadres.
He has also been the chief architect of the Left Front-Congress alliance which was considered an impossibility a few months ago. Mr Mishra spoke with Parwez Hafeez of a tacit understanding between the Trinamul Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal.
The coming together of eternal adversaries Cong-ress and the CPM and all anti-Trinamul secular, democratic forces on one platform is certainly an incredible and unprecedented political development in the state. What prompted the CPM to extend a hand of friend-ship to the Congress?
It was in the last state party conference that the call to oust the Trinamul to save West Bengal and oust the Bharatiya Janata Party to save India was given. We explained the link between these two because without challenging this co-relationship of forces in West Bengal, the battle all over the country cannot be fought successfully. West Bengal being the advance outpost of democracy, the restoration of democracy was the primary challenge.
The secular fabric in the state faces an unprecedented threat and efforts towards communal polarisation by the BJP-TMC nexus have to be thwarted. They are two sides of the same coin.
You mean to say this consolidation of Opposition is not a sudden development, that you have been working on it for quite some time?
Yes! Not only the CPM, but Left Front also launched a series of movements. Then over 100 parties and organisations outside the Left Front launched an effective and powerful mass movement under the umbrella of Bengal Platform of Mass Organisations (BPMO) reaching villages which were inaccessible to us for over five years. This created confidence among the people. We gave a call for a people’s alliance, making it clear that there should be no political untouchability. People are people, workers are workers and farmers are farmers. Students, women — everyone was oppressed.
So, you saw “oppression” as the common bond?
Yes. We advocated the mobilisation of people irrespective of their political affinities who had been the victims of Trinamul’s tyranny. They all faced a three-pronged attack. Attack on their basic rights, attack on communal harmony and attack on their livelihood. Even Trinamul supporters are not safe from their own more powerful party colleagues. Everyone was oppressed. So, first the people’s mobilisation at the grassroots took place. The momentum generated at the grassroots level forced the political parties to come to an understanding.
Everyone agrees that the name of the person who has accomplished the virtually impossible feat of forging an electoral tie-up between the Congress and the Left is Surjya Kanta Mishra. People are saying you have made history?
Individuals do not make history, and I am not being modest. Jyoti Basu used to say that people make history. People have come to understand that it is possible to get rid of Mamata Banerjee’s government. Six months ago, they could not believe it. Now they are convinced and confident that this government can be thrown out. The media has also played an important role in creating and promoting this idea. The idea has caught the people’s imagination. And no secular, democratic party, including the Left parties, can dare to defy the people’s aspirations. Even those who were against the idea have fallen in line. You must not underestimate the power of people’s will.
No CPM state secretary before you — including Biman Bose and Anil Biswas — has ever contes-ted an election. Your deci-sion to contest the Assem-bly polls is pathbreaking. Your comment.
It is not true. One of the founders of our party, Muzaffar Ahmed, persuaded Jyoti babu to become party secretary in 1957 when he was already the Leader of Opposition. Basu was CPM party secretary as well as the Leader of Opposition till 1960. He contested Assembly elections in 1957 and 1960. But you can say that it happened when it was an undivided party. (The CPM came into existence following a split in the Communist Party of India in 1964). Sometimes extra-ordinary situations demand extraordinary decisions.
Will the Congress and Left parties be able to transfer their votes to each other? And aren’t you worried about friendly fights in nearly 10 Assembly seats?
I have been asking people to dismantle all barriers and demolish all walls. I have given a clear message to all the partners of the People’s Alliance (Manusher Jot) against the ruling Trinamul that even two days before the election they should rally around the candidate who is in the best position to defeat a Trinamul candidate.
You could not share the stage with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Will you address a joint rally with Sonia Gandhi?
There are problems at the national level. In Kerala, Congress is the Left’s main opponent and vice-versa. National leaders have their compulsions. We want the independent identity of respective allies to remain intact. It is difficult for national leaders. But that does not bar us from organising a number of joint meetings and joint rallies at the grassroots.
I know the CPM and Left Front have not projected you as their chief ministerial candidate, but even your detractors agree that your political acumen, stature and popularity make you perfectly suited for the big responsibility. Congress leaders, in fact, have publicly rooted for you to become the chief minister.
So kind of them. But the process is that the final decision is taken by the legislature party after the election. Elected MLAs sit and unanimously elect their leader. You cannot impose a leader on them. That practice should not be followed in a parliamentary democracy.
All pre-poll surveys have predicted an emphatic victory for the Trinamul. Still you insist that on May 19 Ms Banerjee will become a former chief minister. What is your source of confidence/optimism?
It’s the people. The mood of the masses. I have not witnessed this kind of upsurge in the last 10 years. There is a determination among the people to fight back, to resist any attack on their right to vote. This was evident in the first phase of polling on April 4.
The CPM and the Congress are persistently alleging that there is a tacit understanding between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Didi, but even today (on April 7) the Prime Minister launched a scathing attack against both Ms Banerjee and the Trinamul. He even accused her of doing politics over the dead victims of the flyover crash by immediately blaming the Left for the tragedy.
But he said it much after I said it, i.e. on the day of the flyover collapse.
You must have seen my tweets? I said it was not time for petty politics, call the Army because rescue operations should be of top-most priority. I asked the Left cadres to assist the administration in rescue and relief work and donate blood. What is going on between Mr Modi and Ms Banerjee is nothing but shadow boxing. The Prime Minister, who is today talking about Saradha and Narada scams, had promised that action would be taken against the culprits and money would be returned to the duped depositors in the Saradha scam before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. What has he done in the past two years? It is very clear who is saving Ms Banerjee.
What is the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Securities and Exchange Board of India and other Central agencies doing? A natak is going on because the BJP does not want Ms Banerjee to lose this election.
The Trinamul has proved a trusted ally of the NDA in Parliament.