Left Front or Left Behind?
Posted by k.r.a.k.t.i.k on February 19, 2006
Yesterday, as I was flipping channels, I chanced upon an exclusive interview on Headlines Today, the english affiliate of the popular newschannel Aaj Tak. The interview panel were the India Today Group’s Editor and Exec. Editor. In the hot seat was Sitaram Yechury, CPI MP and Politburo member.
Not an interesting recipe? Read on.
A number of issues were on discussion of course. What struck me the most at the outset was, for one, the immaculate way in which Yechury conducted himself – just the exact opposite of the archetypal notion of the politician that we all seem to take for granted and propagate without a second thought. Articulate, composed, and perfectly at ease in any one of 3 languages – quite a mix.
Quite a few issues under discussion, given that the Left is a key member of the current ruling alliance, the UPA, and more often than not at loggerheads with the ruling party, the Congress. What was different, however, was how sane the left’s views sound when they are actually expressed as articulate thoughts instead of insane, 70s era gramophone repetitions.
It had me wondering – here is a party that has never really been in power (except for the brief dilly-dallying with a third front in the 90s which itself wouldn’t have been possible without the express outside support of a major national party). Except in their traditional bastions of power, W Bengal and Kerala, the Left has never really come into its own as administrators, and has always been branded the fiery opposition and at times an exasparating bunch of down and outs out to flog a theory that has outlived its usefulness the world over including Russia, Eastern Europe and South America.
Not so – a few examples (and I paraphrase mostly here) :-
On Walmart and the entry of retail giants into India:
The feeling Yechury gave was that the Left is not per se and en bloc opposed to the entry of foreign investment into India, but the (very interesting) points he made were these:
i. The government shouldn’t go overboard in allowing foreign investment in areas that our people make their livelihoods in – you’re hitting at your own stomach that way
ii. Any foreign investment that comes into the country must satisfy a couple of criteria, which include genuine creation of employment (a point we will come to in item iii), betterment of life for the average worker and most importantly, accompanying technological progress that benefits the country (read industries and plants in the country, not just back office support)
iii. The employment that is generated by this foreign investment must be genuine, i.e, you don’t allow supermarket chains to set up shop and just take over businesses and show the (cut-down) workforce numbers as newly generated employment; which is also hitting at all your long established individual cultivators and vendors in the unorganised sector.
Something like Colombian oranges selling over your Nagpur variety because SuperXYZMart offers them for 20 p. less.
Another divisive issue – the vote over Iran at the UNSC.
Apparently the Left is trying to stress the fact that they are not following their policies with regard to this matter because of a pro- or anti- stance towards any given country, but rather with India’s best interests in mind (which of course is the proper thing to say, it being a televised interview). Whatever decision is taken must be in India’s interests – however, what it is that is in the country’s interests, nobody seems to be master of.
Those were but 2 instances from this (quite captivating) interview. Captivating because of the wide spectrum of difference there is in views between the traditional Left-aligned parties and the Government of the day on the one hand, and the ruling coalition and the (popularly called) Right-leaning section of the polity.
As I mentioned earlier, the Left has never really been in power on its own in the country. They’ve always either played the role of aggressive opposition, or done what they do best, support a government from the outside and threaten to pull the plug at any opportune moment. Might it be interesting to see what they would do if they were truly in power? This was put to Yechury too, albeit in a lighter vein –
H: So there is no question of drawing a “Laxman Rekha” for the UPA and the government in this Lok Sabha, and a third front / alternative emerging?
Y: Definitely, in this Lok Sabha, the BJP and the Congress combined have over a majority, so a third-front is not a possible option. But I am not ruling out that we cannot have another Lok Sabha before 5 years are up …
H: Is that a threat?
Y: No, not a threat – but we are watching the government …
Jokes aside, they are watching the government, from issues like Iran to FDI, Disinvestment to PPF and employees’ rights. Sometimes it is good for the boy-who-cries-wolf to actually be in the hot seat. In an interview, on the big stage. Are they the Left Front, as they like to call themselves, or are they just a bit Left Behind?
And more important than that is for everyone in the country, especially the youth, to take an interest in these affairs. Trust me, they make for riveting exercises in thought – and nothing is more crucial for the country’s future. Nothing.
Of course, I like to think of television, sound bites and interviews all as a mirror – it shows you everything as it is, really; only – it inverts it all.