Trinamul Maoist Nexus Reconfirmed

THE rally held by the TMC – Trinamul Maoist Combine – at Lalgarh on August 9 reconfirms, if ever such a reconfirmation was required, that the Trinamul Congress and the Maoists have, indeed, been political collaborators in creating mayhem and anarchy in certain areas of West Bengal.

The murderous assaults by this combine has already martyred 255 leaders of the CPI(M). Most, if not all of these, belong to the poorest of the exploited classes and tribals, whose interests, ironically, the Maoists claim to champion drawing the blind romantic adulation by some `intellectuals’ and `social activists’.

An embarrassed and cornered Manmohan Singh-led government tried to duck, unsuccessfully, the issue of one of its cabinet members being caught red handed in the open political collaboration with the Maoists. They took refuge behind the argument that they shall return to both the houses of parliament after having “ascertained the facts”.

Ironically, the very next day, August 11, the minister of state for home affairs stood up in reply to a starred question in the Rajya Sabha on the involvement of Maoists in railway accidents stating: “Investigation conducted reveals that Police Santras Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC/PCPA), a frontal organisation of Maoists, was involved in damaging the railway track, thereby causing the accident.

The CBI has arrested 12 persons so far in this case”. It is the very same minister for railways, whose primary job, under oath of the constitution is to protect the life of passengers traveling on the Indian railways and to improve its safety standards, who is openly collaborating with the Maoists.

She has openly advocated the withdrawal of the operations of the security forces against the Maoist violence. She, in fact, has gone to the extent of asserting that Maoist leader Azad was `murdered’ and not killed in an encounter as claimed by the security forces.

The Trinamul-Maoist nexus became abundantly clear when, according to media reports: “Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji once again batted for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Azad issue.

“There is no doubt that our politburo member and central committee spokesperson Charakuri Rajkumar alias Azad was treacherously killed by the members of Andhra Pradesh police special intelligence branch in a fake encounter. Mamata Banerjee spoke the truth and there is no reason behind the furore over the issue in parliament”. This comes from a Maoist leader whose party openly rejects parliamentary democracy and calls for a `people’s war’ against the Indian State!

Unable to defend the role of an important ally and cabinet colleague, the UPA-II government through its minister for home affairs, P Chidambaram, stated in the Rajya Sabha, “No one should support the Maoists and the government will certainly not encourage anybody who does so.”

However, the UPA-II government, in a crass display of political opportunism, requiring the numbers of TMC MPs in the Lok Sabha for the survival of this government, is tolerating such `support to the Maoists’ making a mockery of its commitment to safeguard India’s internal security.

Indeed, there is an irreconcilable contradiction that continues to plague the UPA-II government. The prime minister has repeatedly asserted that Maoist violence constitutes “the gravest threat to India’s internal security”. Yet, its own cabinet colleague, under the leadership of this very prime minister, openly collaborates with Maoist violence and defends the attempted subversion of parliamentary democracy.

The composition of the people gathered in Lalgarh clearly exposes the reasons for organising this meeting. The overwhelming bulk of the people were brought by huge number of transportation vehicles from outside of Lalgarh. The fact that the people of that area stayed away in large numbers shows the growing political isolation of the Trinamul Congress combine. It is precisely in order to strike terror and browbeat the local population into supporting them that this rally was organised.

Clearly, the Trinamul Congress has exposed itself to stooping to the lowest of levels in its quest to gain in the forthcoming assembly elections in West Bengal. In the bargain, neither the safeguarding of innocent life nor strengthening the unity and integrity of India are of any concern.

If the UPA-II government and prime minister Manmohan Singh continue to turn a deaf ear to this threat, then India will have to pay a heavy price. Brazen political opportunism to continue to remain in office cannot be allowed to sacrifice the interests of India’s unity, integrity and internal security.

From People’s Democracy

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CPI(M): Rout In Municipal Polls Cause For “Serious Concern”

Here is the Editorial from this week’s People’s Democracy explaining the Left Front’s rout in the recent elections to 81 municipal bodies across West Bengal. The message: All is not lost; there’s another 12 months to regain lost ground before the all-important Assembly election next year…

IN the results of the elections to the 81 municipal bodies across the state of West Bengal held on May 30, 2010, the Left Front has won in only 18 municipalities.

The Trinamul Congress has won 26, the Congress 7, the anti-Left alliance 4, while 23 are hung, 3 have resulted in a tie. In whose favour these would be resolved will only be known in the future.

In the finest traditions of democratic practice, the Left Front led by the CPI(M) has accepted the people’s verdict. The Left Front in West Bengal has declared that it shall make a proper assessment and review of these results to draw correct lessons for the future.

There has been a massive media hype that these elections are a `semi-final’ for the so-called `final’ assembly elections in May, 2011. The politically conscious electorate in Bengal is discerning in the sense that it treats every election on the basis of its objective.

The Lok Sabha elections were to determine the government at the centre. The elections to the state assembly are to determine the government in the state. Likewise, the municipal and panchayat elections have their own objectives. Each election is, therefore, a different ballgame.

The Trinamul Congress has mounted a shrill campaign for the dismissal of the duly-elected state government and the holding of early elections. This is not only patently undemocratic but completely irrational.

The total number of people eligible to vote in these municipal elections was 85,33,000 out of a total electorate in the state of 5,24,32,000, i.e., only 17 per cent of the total electorate. This makes up for less than 40 seats in an assembly of 294.

The rest of the 83 per cent constitutes the rural Bengal electorate or more than 250 assembly seats, which has predominantly determined the character of the government in the state in the past. Hence, it will be fallacious to conclude that the results of these municipal elections are a reflection of the state’s electorate as a whole.

Nevertheless, it is a reflection of urban Bengal. To that extent, the Left Front is committed to undertake a serious introspection of these results. During the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, which saw a serious erosion in the Left vote, the Left Front had a lead in 525 of the 1766 municipal wards in the state or 29.73 per cent.

In these elections, the Left Front has won 603 out of 1791 municipal wards or 33.67 per cent. Hence, the situation now shows, at best, a marginal improvement in the performance of the Left Front.

Clearly, therefore, the setback suffered in the Lok Sabha elections has not been reversed but the downslide appears to have been partially arrested.

In the 2005 elections to the municipal bodies, the Left Front had won an unprecedented victory bagging 50 out of the 81 municipal bodies. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, however, it had led in only 19. In these elections, it has won in only 18.

However, as noted earlier, the leadership of 26 municipal bodies will only be decided later. The main reverses to the Left Front have come from Kolkata and its adjoining urban areas. North 24 Parganas district has 21 municipal bodies while Hooghly district has 12.

In 2005, the Left Front had won 26 of these 33 municipalities. This time Left Front has won only in 4 with a tie in 2 municipalities. This is a serious matter that needs to be properly reviewed in order to draw the correct lessons and apply the needed correctives.

The CPI(M) and the Left Front are committed to undertake this task in right earnest.

UPA Report Card: Drifting From Tragedy To Farce

The Manmohan Singh government completes 6 years in office today. Alas, it has nothing to show by way of achievement except making India an American satellite. As the following assessment by Prakash Karat underlines, if there is an impression of drift and being directionless, the Congress government has only itself to blame for this plight. After thinking it can go ahead with its own policy prescriptions, it now finds itself in a position where its partners in Government often look at things differently and assert themselves.

The present UPA government is completing one year of its tenure on May 22. Unlike the first UPA government, its second edition did not spell out a common minimum programme. Instead, the Congress-led government began by reiterating its commitment to pursue the neo-liberal agenda. It announced that it would take up those policy measures which it could not push through in its first term in office.

The government also promised to bring in some welfare measures for the aam aadmi. On foreign policy, the government stated that it would adhere to the path taken by the first UPA government of aligning India’s foreign policy in tune with the strategic alliance with the United States of America.

The one-year of the UPA government has been notable for the following:

Firstly, it has totally failed to tackle the relentless price rise of essential commodities particularly food items. This has been the biggest cause for people’s suffering in the past year; for the poor it has meant less food and more hunger and malnutrition.

This is not a “failure” as such but an outcome of the determination to pursue neo-liberal policies. Food items and other essential commodities are traded and speculated in the market in a big way. The forward trading system is the playground for big trading companies and corporates. The government is in the least interested in curbing these interests who are making huge profits.

Secondly, the Congress-led government is in the grip of finance capital and the sway of big business. It believes in cutting taxes for the rich; providing a tax bonanza for big business and maintaining favourable terms for foreign finance speculators.

The Direct Taxes Code which the government proposes to usher in will make India one of the least taxed countries as far as the rich are concerned. In the last financial year, the government provided Rs. 80,000 crore of tax concessions to the corporates. The disinvestment of shares in the profitable public sector units is the favoured agenda of both Indian big business and the US corporate interests.

Every sphere of policy making, whether it concerns the pricing of gas, the allocation of telecom spectrum, opening up of mining and minerals, the financial sector, retail trade or allowing foreign educational institutions into the country – bears the imprint of a government pandering to big business and their foreign finance collaborators.

Thirdly, this type of growth under the neo-liberal regime has spawned crony capitalism. The nexus between big business and politics has become the hallmark of the Congress regime. The legitimacy provided to foreign capital flows from dubious sources through the Mauritius route and other tax havens; the huge illegal mining business flourishing under political protection; the refusal to discipline and penalize law breaking and tax evasions on a large scale on the part of the super rich – all this has promoted a unhealthy and perverted capitalism which is celebrated as India’s growth story.

What this has produced is corruption and illegality on a large scale which affects every sphere of society. The first year of the government has seen the IPL affair, the 2G spectrum allocation scam and the mining scandal of the Reddy brothers. All this can be directly sourced to the nexus between big business and ruling politicians.

Fourthly, the UPA government’s concern for the aam aadmi has proved to be shallow. The Congress and the UPA government are conscious that some relief has to be provided to the people who are the worst victims of the neo-liberal policies.

During the UPA I tenure, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the farm loan waiver and the Forest Rights Act were some such measures. These were part of the Common Minimum Programme and came into being mainly due to the consistent pressure and struggles waged by the Left parties.

However, under the UPA II, the government has failed to legislate even one substantial measure for relief. The proposed Food Security Bill would have in no way enhanced food security for the people.

After one year, the government is still debating how to bring about such a measure. The Public Distribution System has been further weakened and curtailed. The plight of the farmers does not seem to concern the government which has cut the fertilizer subsidy by Rs. 3000 crore in the current Union budget.

The Common Minimum Programme of the first UPA government had promised to increase public expenditure in education to 6 per cent of the GDP and in the sphere of health to 2 to 3 per cent of the GDP.

As far as education is concerned the combined central and state expenditure is still below 4 per cent. In the case of health the combined budgetary allocation of the Union and state budgets was a meager 1.06 per cent of the GDP in 2009-10, far below the target of 2-3 per cent.

Fifthly, the UPA government has failed to utilize the favourable political atmosphere and the strength of the secular forces in parliament to push for firm anti-communal measures. It seems visibly reluctant to come to terms with the Ranganath Mishra Commission report recommending reservation for the minorities on the basis of their socio-economic backwardness. There has been a noticeable lack of political initiative in dealing with the simmering problem of Kashmir.

As far as tackling the Maoist violence is concerned, the UPA government tends to treat it solely as a law and order problem without realizing that some of its own policies like the licence for indiscriminate mining in the forest areas is alienating the tribal people.

Moreover, it finds itself hampered by its own partner in government, the TMC. Mamata Banerjee has declared that there are no Maoists in West Bengal and therefore there is no need for joint operations against them.

Sixthly, foreign policy under the Manmohan Singh Government has remained steadfast in its fealty to the United States. As a quid pro quo for the nuclear deal, India has agreed to buy billions of dollars of US arms and equipment.

The End Use Monitoring Agreement which would allow American inspections on Indian soil was signed. The Civil Nuclear Liability Bill which has been introduced in parliament to meet the demand of the United States is patently against the interests of the Indian people. The growing military and security collaboration with the US and Israel affects the pursuit of an independent policy.

India has gone along with the United States which is targeting Iran on the nuclear issue. It once more voted against Iran in the IAEA, unlike other non-aligned countries. India is not playing the role of a leading non-aligned country.

In contrast, President Lula De Silva of Brazil has stood up to the United States and refused to go along with the campaign for further sanctions on Iran. President Lula has visited Tehran for talks with the Iranian leadership to find a way out of the impasse and to come to some agreement with the help of Turkey.

One of the few positive aspects in foreign policy is the Prime Minister’s refusal to adopt a confrontationist stance towards Pakistan despite what sections in his government and party wish.

The great potential of shaping an independent foreign policy and strengthening of multi-polarity by India’s vigorous diplomacy and energising forums like the BRIC, IBSA and the trilateral meetings of the foreign ministers of Russia, China and India is being underplayed.

Politically, the striking outcome of the first year of the UPA government is its increasing vulnerability. In May 2009, the UPA won the elections but failed to get a majority. The Congress leadership ignored this reality and became complacent with the unilateral declaration of support by parties like the BSP, SP, RJD and the JD(S). By the end of the first year that complacency has been shattered.

During the last budget session, the Congress had to adopt the tactic of bargain and striking deals to garner support from amongst these parties. The last three weeks of the budget session have witnessed the manouevres to prop up the government’s majority against the cut motions and the struggle to ensure the passage of legislations.

The cynical use of the CBI for political purposes is undermining the credibility of the agency. The wheeling and dealing that saw the postponement of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha and the introduction of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill – all portend a tortuous path for the future.

If there is an impression of drift and being directionless, the Congress government has only itself to blame for this plight. After thinking it can go ahead with its own policy prescriptions, it now finds itself in a position where its partners in Government often look at things differently and assert themselves. There is growing opposition within parliament.

As far as the people are concerned, their experience is of a government increasingly callous to their sufferings due to price rise, while it showed great solicitude for big business and the corporates when it felt the impact of the global recession.

After the first six months of the government, there has been the rising tempo of popular struggles and movements. A peak in this struggle was reached with the April 27 hartal called by the 13 opposition parties. A spate of struggles of different sections of the working people have taken place. The struggle is on against the harmful policies of the government and to defend the livelihood and the rights of the working people. The question is whether the UPA government has learnt any lessons from its first year in office.

CPI(M) Purge Begins: Kerala CM Is First Casualty

The CPI(M) has finally gone about setting its house in order. And the purge has started at the very top. The senior-most leader who has made a big contribution to the party in Kerala, chief minister VS Achuthanandan, has been unceremoniously removed from the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) for “violation of organisational principles and discipline” by the Central Committee.

However, he has been allowed to “fulfil his responsibilities as the Chief Minister and as a leader of the Party.” Which means he will not have to step down immediately. It remains to be seen whether VS, as Achuthanandan’s is popularly known, abides by party discipline or take the road travelled by Somnath Chatterjee last year.

While the Central Committee is the highest authority of the Party between two all-India Party Congresses, the Polit Bureau carries on the work of the Central Committee between its two sessions and has the right to take political and organisational decisions in between two meetings of the Central Committee.

Achuthanandan’s expulsion from the Polit Bureau comes in the wake of the unprecedented factionalism in the Kerala unit of the CPI(M). Indeed, the factionalism had reached an extent that “alien trends among some Party members which violate Communist norms, adversely affected the performance of the Party” in the last Lok Sabha elections in which the LDF was routed, winning only 4 of the 20 seats in Kerala.

In its last meeting on June 20-21 the Central committee had noted that “all such and other shortcomings and weaknesses should be critically and self-critically examined and rectified. A rectification campaign should be organised within the Party against all the shortcomings, mistakes and deviations. The disunity and wrong trends should be firmly put down.” And a beginning has been made with Achuthanandan’s removal from the Polit Bureau.

The decision was taken after two days of intense debate on June 11 and 12 in which the Central Committee examined the report submitted by the Polit Bureau on the SNC Lavalin contract for the renovation and modernisation of three hydroelectric projects in Kerala, which were entered into by the UDF government in 1995-96 and which were subsequently implemented by the LDF government.

A communiqué to the media said: “The Central Committee is of the view that Com Pinarayi Vijayan, secretary of the Kerala State Committee and the Electricity Minister in the then LDF government between 1996-98 was not involved in any corrupt practice whatsoever. The Central Committee reiterated that the Party will fight the case politically and legally.”

But, of course, the Lavalin case is only a sideshow. Heads have started to roll mainly because of the CPI(M)’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections. The seats won by the LDF came down from 18 in 2004 to 4 in 2009 and only the CPI(M) in the LDF won seats in the elections.

The percentage of votes secured by the CPI(M) decreased by 3.16 per cent as compared to 2004 elections. The percentage of vote secured by the LDF declined from 46.08 in 2004 to 41.89 in 2009. On the other hand, the percentage of vote secured by the Congress-led UDF went up from 38.89 in 2004 to 47.75 in 2009 and seats from 1 to 16.

This is a fall of two lakh votes in this election for LDF compared to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and more than 9 lakh votes increase for UDF compared to 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Compared to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, LDF votes increased in 9 Lok Sabha constituencies and declined in 11 Lok Sabha constituencies this time. It is of little consolation to the Party that though its mass base was not substantially eroded, it lost ground especially among the Christians and Muslims.

Though the all-India trends influenced the elections in Kerala, there were the state-specific factors which decisively affected the elections. A section of the people who had rallied behind the LDF during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and 2006 Assembly elections moved away from the LDF with religious and caste leaders actively intervening in the elections in favour of the UDF.

The CPI(M) has conceded “the anti-Communist forces succeeded in weaning away a substantial section of Christian minorities from the LDF. The Catholic Church rallied other churches and openly campaigned against the CPI(M) due to its opposition to the Education Act which sought to put in place some social control over self-financed colleges. Certain other controversies also came up during this period.

“Though there is no erosion of support base among the Muslim minorities, the efforts to expand our influence among them did not yield the expected results in many areas. (More importantly) the UDF and the media were successful in creating some confusion among a section of the secular minded people that the CPI(M) is also resorting to an opportunistic stand in the matter of getting the support of Madani’s PDP to the LDF candidates.

“It may be necessary during elections to get support from different parties, groups and sections of people in elections, but at the same time, we should be careful to ensure that our secular identity does not get blurred by any such manoeuvres. We should have avoided having a joint platform with the PDP during the election campaign. It is to be noted here that the UDF got the support of the NDF or Popular Front which is an extremist outfit involved in communal and criminal activities.”

The most important conclusion reached by the Central Committee was on the factionalism plaguing the Kerala unit. “While the UDF was a united force, the disunity in the LDF was one of the factors for the defeat. The disunity in the Party and LDF had an adverse impact on the people. Some of Achuthanandan’s statements during the campaign had an adverse effect and helped the opposition campaign.

The public controversies that erupted in the LDF just on the eve of Lok Sabha elections conveyed an impression in the minds of the people that the LDF was
disunited and was fighting each other. It led to the dominant section of the JD(S) going out and opposing the LDF.

Even though the LDF government did many things for the common people, they were not adequately projected and people rallied to support, because of the never-ending controversies in the leadership of the Party and government.

Above all, the UDF made use of the SNC Lavalin case to create confusion in the minds of the people. The media used the Lavalin issue as the central issue in the elections. In fact media reports were mainly confined only to three issues – the Lavalin controversy, PDP’s support to the LDF and disunity in the Party and the LDF.

However, the Party failed to assess the magnitude of the setback till the counting day. In its assessment, the Central Committee said,”We were hopeful of getting more than a majority of seats for the LDF. The Party has to identify why such a wrong estimation was made. It should be examined whether factionalism has adversely affected the organisational work in certain areas.”

The Central Committee’s communiqué today has confirmed that factionalism in the CPI(M) can no longer be swept under the carpet, as in the past. Indeed, Achuthanandan’s removal from the Polit Bureau is just the beginning. The purge – or the “rectification campaign against all the shortcomings, mistakes and deviations” – has to go down to the primary unit level to rebuild the CPI(M) into a fighting machine it once was.

Roger And Out

Meaning Of The Verdict

By Prakash Karat

What is the meaning of this verdict? How is it to be interpreted? The first point to be noted is that while there has been a pro-Congress trend in some parts of the country, taken overall, there is no big shift in favour of the Congress. In terms of vote share, the Congress has got just about 2 per cent more than in 2004.

According to the Election Commission’s figures, the Congress party has got 28.55 per cent of the vote. In 2004, it had got 26.53 per cent. The Congress made big gains in Kerala and Rajasthan and improved its position in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Its allies like the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal were also successful. That there was no wave or a strong all-India shift in favour of the Congress can be seen by the party losing ground in states like Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat, Chattisgarh and Karnataka to mention a few. Here the Congress vote share and seats have gone down compared to 2004. In Andhra Pradesh, while its seats increased, the vote share of the Congress has gone down.

Another feature is that while Congress gained 2 per cent, the BJP lost around 3 per cent. The loss of the BJP has gone to the Congress but the combined percentage of vote of both parties stands more or less as it was in 2004. In 2004, the two parties combined got 48.69 per cent of the vote and in 2009 it stands at over one per cent less at 47.35 per cent.

This is at a time when the Congress and the BJP fought more seats than in 2004. This is particularly significant since it shows no reversal in the long term decline of the two parties. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties continue to have more than 50 per cent share of the vote.

BJP Rejected
The second point to note in interpreting the verdict is the failure of the BJP and its political platform. The people have rejected the BJP’s claim of providing good governance and defending national security. What they saw in the election campaign was the recurrence of communal rhetoric and the ingrained penchant for communalising all problems including terrorism.

Varun Gandhi’s virulent hate speeches and the eulogising of Narendra Modi as the future leader symbolised this campaign. The failure to capitalise on a host of issues such as price rise, unemployment and the continuing agrarian distress by the major opposition party underlines the depth of the rejection of the BJP.

The only NDA partner to do well was the JD (U) in Bihar and that is not due to the BJP but the positive impact of the Nitish Kumar government and the care he took to demarcate himself from the communal platform of the BJP.

Another pointer to the rejection of the BJP comes from Orissa. The BJD, which broke from the BJP just two months before the election, won a spectacular victory getting 103 of the 145 seats in the assembly. In the 2004 assembly election, the BJD-BJP alliance won 93 seats. Thus, the BJD improved its performance after breaking with the BJP.

Reasons for Congress Success
The third point to understand the verdict is that despite the neo-liberal predilections of the Congress-led government, some of the measures adopted have had a positive impact on the people. These are the NREGA, which now extends to the entire country, the Tribal Forest Rights Act and the increase in the minimum support price for rice and wheat, the loan waiver scheme for farmers and some such measures, many of whom were brought under the pressure of the Left parties.

Despite the agrarian crisis, such measures provided some relief to the rural people. Along with this should be seen the measures taken by some of the state governments such as the Rs 2 per kg of rice scheme in Andhra Pradesh and the Re 1 per kg scheme in Tamilnadu and other social welfare measures.

In Orissa too, the Rs 2 per kg of rice bolstered the support for the Navin Patnaik government. At the same time, the fact that four years of high growth of the GDP did not lead to redistribution of resources and incomes and instead sharply increased economic inequalities did play a role in restricting the Congress’s capacity to expand its popular base.

The Congress gained more support amongst the minorities who were keen to ensure that the BJP does not make a come back. The non-Congress, non-BJP parties were not seen as a viable alternative in most parts of the country and this accentuated the shift in minority support to the Congress.

The Congress party has also benefited from the concern of the people that the country should face unitedly the threat of terrorism and their fear that communalism can only aggravate the situation.

Setback for the Left
The CPI (M) and the Left have suffered a serious setback with the losses in West Bengal and Kerala. It was expected that the Left would get a lesser number of seats in these elections given the fact that in Kerala, the LDF had won an unprecedented 18 out of the 20 seats and the Congress got none in the 2004 elections.

In West Bengal too, the odds were heavier given the Trinamool Congress and Congress combining and all the anti-Communist forces launching a concerted attack against the CPI (M) and the Left Front. But the extent of the defeat in both these states has led to the CPI(M) getting only 16 seats, the lowest ever in the Lok Sabha.

This calls for a serious examination of the causes for these reverses. We have to conduct a self-critical review to ascertain what are the factors which are responsible for this poor performance.

Both national and state level factors have to be analysed. The electoral-tactical line formulated by the Party at the national level and the national political situation which influenced the Lok Sabha polls must be studied. Along with that, the specific state factors in both West Bengal and Kerala must also be taken into account.

The Politburo, in its meeting held on May 18, 2009, has initiated such a review which will be completed by the Central Committee in its meeting to be held in June. After identifying the reasons for the failure, the Party will have to take the necessary political and organisational measures to overcome the shortcomings and mistakes.

On this basis, the Party will strenuously work to regain the support of those sections of the people who were alienated from the Party and the Left-led fronts. Such a self-critical exercise will also pave the basis for the Party taking up the organisational tasks set out in the Party Congress to strengthen the Party and to expand its mass influence.

Third Front Alliance
In the discussions held in the Politburo, there was a preliminary review of the Party’s effort to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance and present it as an electoral alternative. The Central Committee, in its meeting held in Kochi in January 2009, had worked out the electoral-tactical line and given the direction that “the Left parties along with the secular parties should work together to make a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative realizable.”

The CPI(M) and the CPI had an electoral understanding with some of the non-Congress, non-BJP parties in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa and seat adjustments in Karnataka. On the basis of these state level understandings forged on the eve of the elections, we attempted to project them as a national level non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

The defeat of the Left in West Bengal and Kerala and the failure of the alliance in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to win a majority of the seats undermined any effective presence of the “Third Front” at the national level. It is evident that such a combination which had its relevance in the concerned states was not a credible and viable alternative at the national level. Further, the electoral combinations, which were forged state-wise, precluded any national policy platform being projected.

There have been two consequences of the projection of a Third Front. Firstly, the BJP-led NDA was adversely affected by the formation of a non-Congress secular combination. The BJP and the NDA’s tally has come down since they were denied any significant ally in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

The second point to be noted is that the secular non-Congress combination has got 21 per cent of the vote and this shows the potential for building up a third alternative on the lines suggested by the CPI (M) in its Party Congress. That is, an alternative which is not merely an electoral alliance but a coming together of the parties and forces on a common platform through movements and struggles for alternative policies distinct from that of the Congress and the BJP.

Money Power
A disturbing feature of this Lok Sabha election was the use of money on a scale not seen before. States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka saw an unprecedented use of illegal money. The Madurai constituency in Tamil Nadu was the worst example of the brazen use of money.

In other states too, this trend has grown which is vitiating the democratic process. More and more tickets are being given to moneybags and parties are collecting huge sums of money to be deployed for bribing voters. This is a threat to the entire democratic process and is particularly inimical to the Left’s interests which cannot indulge in such unscrupulous use of money power.

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Yechury Admits Leadership’s Failure

Sitaram Yechury’s interview to Karan Thapar for the programme Devil’s Advocate

Karan Thapar: Prakash Karat has accepted that the election results are a major setback, but the truth is actually much worse than that. Can you deny that this is the worst electoral performance in your party’s 45-year-history?

Sitaram Yechury: Not at all. I don’t deny it. This is the worst debacle we have had. Soon after we were formed in 64, the first election we contested in 1967 we won 19 seats–today we won 16.

Karan Thapar: So you have literally gone back below your starting point.

Sitaram Yechury: And this is a serious matter. It is a matter which the politburo has admitted is a very big debacle and we have to understand why this happened and seriously introspect.

Karan Thapar: Let’s for a moment pause over the statistics of your performance. You have gone from your best ever electoral performance to your worst ever in just five straight years. This time around you have lost 63 per cent of the seats you had, or to put it differently you have lost 68 percent more seats than you have won. Those statistics are worrying and actually they are appalling.

Sitaram Yechury: Statistics are statistics and you can always manipulate them but that is not the point. The fact is that you cannot escape from this reality that this has been a very big debacle for us. It’s been the worst performance electorally by the party.

Karan Thapar: Let’s then come to why you did so badly. To begin with, can you accept that breaking with the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) was a mistake? The voters didn’t understand why you did it and worst of all it made CPI-M look like a party which was promoting instability.

Sitaram Yechury: All these issues we have decided will be discussed–both national and state-level issues—introspected upon and a very serious, honest, self-critical review will be made by us.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you what your defeated MPs are saying. Prashant Pradhan, your defeated MP from Kontai, says: “People have not taken kindly to the withdrawal of support from the UPA government. The poor and the farmers never understood why we wanted to topple the government.”

Sitaram Yechury: You see these are points of views which have come across. As I said all issues will be discussed by us and on all of them we will come to some honest, self-critical conclusion.

Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you Amitabh Nandi, a defeated MP from Dumdum. He says: “From day one of withdrawing support from UPA our slogans, our activities have proved we are against stability.”

Sitaram Yechury: These are opinions that have come and as I said all these issues will be discussed thoroughly and that process has already begun. By the middle of June I think we will come to our conclusion.

Karan Thapar: But can you accept that these are very valid opinions?

Sitaram Yechury: These issues will be discussed, definitely.

Karan Thapar: These are not inexperienced, foolish people talking. These are some of your most senior, cherished MPs, now defeated. They know what they are talking about.

Sitaram Yechury: They have been our leaders in Parliament. There is no way we are going to discount anything anybody says within the party. Everything will be taken seriously and discussed.

Karan Thapar: Now the second problem with breaking with the UPA was that you forced the Congress into the arms of the Trinamool Congress, thus creating a coalition that was able to attract the anti-Left votes in West Bengal at a time when you were yourself suffering from Nandigram, Singur and beginning to realise that the Muslim population could be disaffected. Rather than divide your opponents you ended up uniting and strengthening them.

Sitaram Yechury: But remember that the Congress and the Trinamool always had a ground-level understanding even without an alliance. What happened this time was that the de facto converted itself into de jure.

Karan Thapar: Which was a disaster for you…

Sitaram Yechury: This had its impact, definitely. There’s no doubt about it. We anticipated that this would have an impact on the marginal seats, but there are other reasons why this defeat has occurred in Bengal and those have to be seriously examined.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely. No one denies there are other reasons in Bengal. But given those other reasons, the worst tactic for you was to unite your opponents on a single platform. You should have divided them, not united them.

Sitaram Yechury: Like I said we will review all of this.

Karan Thapar: But can you accept this was bad tactics?

Sitaram Yechury: Not just this, all other questions will be discussed and reviewed. All that I can say right now is that on any one of these issues we have not come to any conclusive decision.

Karan Thapar: But you accept that given that you already had problems in Bengal, devising a strategy that unites your opponents was a pretty silly thing to do?

Sitaram Yechury: But it could well be that our opponents were going to unite any way?

Karan Thapar: Maybe but you prodded them into it. If you hadn’t broken with Congress they might not have gone with Trinamool and then you would have faced a divided opposition not a united one.

Sitaram Yechury: In the last elections, remember, of the 61 Left MPs 54 came to the Lok Sabha defeating Congress candidates. So going into elections with the Congress was never the issue.

Karan Thapar: But the problem was that this time, by breaking with the UPA, you pushed the Congress into the arms of the TMC and thus created a platform of unity against you which otherwise would have been two divided parties.

Sitaram Yechury: That is the reason why I am saying that what was de facto has become de jure.

Karan Thapar: And that was a disaster…

Sitaram Yechury: We will review that…

Karan Thapar: Is it true that Jyoti Basu advised the CPI-M leadership not to break with the UPA?

Sitaram Yechury: He may have had his opinions within the committees but there is no advice that has come to us.

Karan Thapar: What opinion did he express in the committees?

Sitaram Yechury: That I can’t tell you. That is something which even he won’t tell you.

Karan Thapar: Can I infer that within the committees he expressed a measure of dissent about breaking with the UPA?

Sitaram Yechury: You see breaking from the UPA was not a one-time decision or which happened one-off. It was a series of developments which were taking place as a result of which it culminated in our withdrawing support. On various steps in this process he had some issues to tell us which he told.

Karan Thapar: So there were various moments when he expressed his opinion; there were issues he had to speak about which he did speak about.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes, definitely. Inside the party all of us will give our opinion but once we collectively decide that is our party matter.

Karan Thapar: Thank you, I think you have said it all. You can’t confirm it but within the party at various stages he had opinions to express and he did express them.

Sitaram Yechury: He conveyed what he felt at a number of times.

Karan Thapar: He conveyed what he felt at a number of times, not (just) once or twice.

Sitaram Yechury: Even today he does.

Karan Thapar: The second biggest mistake was in fact the Third Front. We all knew what it didn’t stand for–it was anti-Congress, anti-BJP—but no one actually knew what it stood for. As a result of which it lacked credibility and it projected negativity.

Sitaram Yechury: We in the politburo have come to the conclusion that the Third Front …. you understand how this Third Front emerged? It was state-level alliances in various states. Now this was brought together as a national alternative, which people obviously found had neither credibility or viability. Both were lacking. Thus the result. That is what we have accepted.

Karan Thapar: Finish the sentence you half began before you interrupted yourself: “We in the Politburo have to come a conclusion about the Third Front” and then you stopped. What is that conclusion?

Sitaram Yechury: That it was neither viable nor credible…

Karan Thapar: Would you therefore say that it was a mistake?

Sitaram Yechury: The way it was projected was a mistake. I’ll tell you why. The CPI-M always had this opinion, which we still continue to have, that India requires a third political alternative. This third political alternative will have to bring about a shift in the policy trajectory in the country. But that cannot be a cut-and-paste job on the eve of elections.

Karan Thapar: This was a hastily put together cut-and-paste job?

Sitaram Yechury: A cut-and-paste job, and to achieve our objective of a third alternative there are no short cuts. It will have to be done through sustained, prolonged, popular struggles. .

Karan Thapar: This was an attempt at putting together a Third Front, not just by cut and paste but by short-cut methods and that was a mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes. That is something which will be a subject of our review in the central committee (of the CPI-M).

Karan Thapar: But in fact it was not just the projection of the Third Front, it was not just the haste and the cut-and-paste manner in which it was put together. Even the composition of the Third Front was wrong. To begin with, almost all its members were former BJP allies. Two of them, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati, face serious charges of corruption. As a result of its composition this front undermined your cherished principles of probity and secularism. These people should have never been your allies.

Sitaram Yechury: That is why in retrospect we are saying that people didn’t find it credible. They did not find this front credible.

Karan Thapar: No doubt the people did not find it credible. The election results prove that. But can you accept that at a prior stage you chose the wrong allies? You should not have approached people like Jayalalithaa, like Mayawati.

Sitaram Yechury: In the states we had electoral understandings—with Jayalalithaa it was an understanding in Tamil Nadu; with the TDP it was an understanding in Andhra Pradesh. But we brought all this together as a national alternative. That did not find credibility with the people.

Karan Thapar: You’re accepting that projecting a state level understanding into a national understanding was a mistake. But even at the state level it was a mistake. Just look at the speed with which Jayalalithaa left you. She left you immediately after the elections and before the counting. The TRS left you after the voting and before the counting. As soon as the counting was over the JD-S and the BSP left you. They showed no loyalty to you at the state or national level.

Sitaram Yechury: The AIADMK has not left us formally, but you are right about the BSP, JD-S and TRS. That is precisely the point I am making–the front was neither credible nor viable. This (election result) has only confirmed that.

Karan Thapar: One other thing. At a time when the country was yearning for a strong and stable government, no one believed that the Third Front could offer it and more importantly the prospect of Mayawati as Prime Minister put a lot of people off, maybe even frightened them.

Sitaram Yechury: I don’t think it was only a question of stability that people wanted. If it was stability then they would have found little to choose between the UPA and the NDA. They wanted stability with a commitment to the secular, democratic foundations of India. This was the combination which they found the Third Front lacked the credibility to give. And Commitment to secular, democratic foundations the NDA would never give. Hence the result.

Karan Thapar: The reason you lacked credibility in terms of secular foundations of India is not just because of the composition of the Third Front. But if you look at what your party did in Kerala your alliance with (PDP leader) A N Madhani was another mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: There was no alliance with Madhani.

Karan Thapar: Your own local partymen in Kerala have called it an alliance and say it is a mistake.

Sitaram Yechury: In Kerala, not only Madhani, various other issues that have impacted on these elections, all of them will be reviewed.

Karan Thapar: Let us briefly talk about the manner in which your two bastions–of West Bengal and Kerala–undermined your performance. To begin with, how did you permit yourself to go into an election when your entire Kerala unit was not just feuding but acrimoniously tearing itself apart?

Sitaram Yechury: But remember in Kerala this sort of situation prevailed in the 2006 elections and that time there were street-level demonstrations (as well).

Karan Thapar: Except that the situation had got much worse. On the eve of elections your state secretariat wanted V S Achutanandan removed as Chief Minister.

Sitaram Yechury: No, that was not true. That was only a media-created rumour. But the point is in 2006 what was seen as acrimony between our leaders resulted in a two-third majority victory in the Assembly.

Karan Thapar: Except that by 2009 you were no longer the beneficiary of doubts in the minds of the people. They were convinced by then 3 years of feuding meant that you were tearing yourself apart and you were allying with people like Madani. You were losing credibility.

Sitaram Yechury: Remember the elections in 2009 were for the Central government not state government. In Kerala and Bengal people are very conscious, they know what choices they want and whom they want where (i.e. at the Centre).

Karan Thapar: All right let me quote to you Hanan Mollah, one of your defeated MPs. This is what he told several papers: “We have been severely punished. Did we lose touch with ground reality?” What is your answer to that question?

Sitaram Yechury: That is precisely what we are examining. That is the answer we will give in our Central Committee when we meet in June.

Karan Thapar: What is your hunch? You are a political man, no doubt a definitive answer will come after the analysis but what is your instinct?

Sitaram Yechury: Obviously we have lost touch otherwise this sort of result would not have come. But to what degree, why we lost touch, what were the inadequacies, that is something we are seriously examining.

Karan Thapar: But you agree that you lost touch?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course, the results show that.

Karan Thapar: Now let’s come to the question: where does responsibility lie. I want to quote to you what one of your defeated candidates, Amitabh Nandy, has said. He says: “When we complete our introspection it will certainly emerge that the party’s top leadership has failed.” Would you agree?

Sitaram Yechury: Please understand one thing that this has been a very big debacle for us. Also understand the fact that this is for the first time in the last two decades that a secular government is being formed in India in which the CPI-M has no role. This is a big setback. People, therefore, are expressing their disappointment. All these sentiments
will be taken into account by us.

Karan Thapar: When you say this is the first time a secular government is being formed in India for two decades without any role or presence of CPI-M, you are underlining how irrelevant or marginalised you have become. So let us come back to Amitabh Nandy. Will you accept that the party’s top leadership has failed?

Sitaram Yechury: That is what we are examining. Of course the top leadership of the party will have to take the leaderships role, I mean play the leaderships role. That it will.

Karan Thapar: Will the question when you do your examination be raised:has the leadership failed? Will that question be raised?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course it will come. Of course it will be discussed. Remember a Communist party functions by what we call the Leninist principles of organisation, where it is collective functioning with individual responsibility.

Karan Thapar: Both the collective functioning of the leadership will be inquired into as well as the issue of individual responsibility?

Sitaram Yechury: Of course. Yes. All of this will come in to the review. Definitely.

Karan Thapar: Your allies have absolutely no compunction at all in pointing the finger of blame straight at the Delhi leadership of CPI-M. Debabrata Biswas has done it, Abani Roy has done it and now increasingly AB Bardhan is doing it. They say the CPI-M leadership was arrogant and it had lost touch with the masses.

Sitaram Yechury: We have also heard these comments but all of them were party to all the decisions that were taken together in the Left parties’ meeting.

Karan Thapar: No doubt but is there any truth in their claim that your leadership was arrogant?

Sitaram Yechury: If our allies are saying all this we will definitely take that into account in our review. Definitely.

Karan Thapar: You won’t turn a deaf ear?

Sitaram Yechury: No, definitely not.

Karan Thapar: You won’t sweep it under the carpet?

Sitaram Yechury: No, it is for our own survival to get back the people who have been alienated from us and to advance further that we have to be candid, honest and rigorously honest in this self-critical examination.

Karan Thapar: If you want to be candid and rigorously honest then I put this to you: after facing a similar disastrous electoral performance, LK Advani offered his resignation to the BJP as Leader of Opposition. Why in similar circumstances in the CPI-M has Prakash Karat not found fit to make a similar gesture?

Sitaram Yechury: Leader of Opposition is a position in Parliament and that Parliament has ceased – the 14th Lok Sabha. And that Parliament has ceased to be. So whether he resigns or not that Parliament has finished.

Karan Thapar: We are talking about the need for candidness, for transparency and for winning back the people you have lost. Surely therefore Prakash Karat must make the gesture of accepting responsibility as General Secretary.

Sitaram Yechury: The point again here is that it will have to be a collective assessment that we will make of these results, of why these results have resulted in this sort of manner. And remember, resignation also can be escape from responsibilities.

Karan Thapar: You said a very interesting thing. A collective assessment will be made.

Sitaram Yechury: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Now your Central Committee is due to meet in June. At that meeting what are the chances that Prakash Karat will either step down voluntarily or be stripped of his responsibilities.

Sitaram Yechury: Again let me tell you the Central Committee is going to discuss the reasons for our debacle.

Karan Thapar: And they are going into the question of leadership?

Sitaram Yechury: Leadership of course. In that process. But it will not be on the basis of who is going to resign or not–that is not the issue. The issue is what are the mistakes, why were they committed and how can they be corrected.

Karan Thapar: But can you rule out the possibility of Prakash Karat accepting responsibility at that stage and resigning?

Sitaram Yechury: The Central Committee, as I said, will comprehensively review. Beyond that I cannot go today.

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. There is no doubt that the two issues on which you ended up losing seats were the break with the UPA and creation of a less than credible Third Front. Of both those Prakash Karat was the central architect. Is it not therefore the case that, as the Press is saying, he has the greatest measure of direct responsibility for this defeat?

Sitaram Yechury: Prakash Karat is the General Secretary of the CPI-M. These were the decisions of the CPI-M and he as General Secretary will articulate these decisions, naturally.

Karan Thapar: In most organisations when things go wrong the man at the top takes the responsibility.

Sitaram Yechury: But I think that is also one way of escaping responsibility.

Karan Thapar: Are you going to hold him to the job to punish him rather than let him go?

Sitaram Yechury: It is not a question of an individual. As I said, we will collectively assess what are our mistakes.

Karan Thapar: And therefore if you are going to collectively assess his future depends on the outcome and decisions of the central committee.

Sitaram Yechury: Well, the future of the party depends on it.

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Coping With Victory And Defeat

By Siddharth Varadarajan

With the poorly conceived Third Front promising little more than political instability and the Bharatiya Janata Party standing for greater social turmoil and division, the victory of the Congress is a vote for calm, centrist stability of the kind the country has not seen for more than two decades.

That voters have attached a premium to both the formation of a stable government and to the pursuit of social-democratic policies should come as no surprise given the spectres of economic hardship, terrorist violence and communal polarisation that haunt our collective psyche today.

The only irony is that the Left and the Congress, whose partnership for four out of the past five years provided the United Progressive Alliance both the aura of stability and the caché of populism, should have ended up such bitter rivals on the eve of the election.

On the eve of the general election, the coming together of major challenges like the world financial crisis, the implosion of Pakistan and the rising tide of religious intolerance within India and the region had shifted the matrix of rational policy in such a manner that the issues on which the Left and the Congress had parted company last year made no sense at all to voters in 2009.

On most issues of consequence, domestic and foreign, the distance between centrist and leftist policy was getting eroded. Having resisted the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme when activists first mooted the idea in 2004, the Congress took it up seriously only after the Left parties made it a priority.

Even then, conservative elements within the ruling establishment like Montek Singh Ahluwalia of the Planning Commission remained sceptical and sought to limit the Central government’s fiscal commitment to it.

Only when the economic slowdown hit India in 2008 — and the importance of NREGA as both a politically convenient safety net for the poor and an accelerator-multiplier to kickstart the economy became apparent — did the Congress make its implementation a priority.

The Congress may have been a late and even reluctant convert; but what matters finally is that the party and the Left ended up on the same page.

On other economic matters which divided the Congress and the Left like financial sector liberalisation, the fact that the Indian banking and insurance sectors were insulated from the global turmoil which felled giants like AIG and Lehman Brothers provided a further basis for the two sides to speak the same broad language.

Instead of celebrating the return of the social-democratic paradigm and using this to leverage a further shift away from neo-liberal dogma, however, the Left found itself holding the can on the one free-market policy its rural support base viscerally opposed: land acquisition.

If nationally, the CPI(M) and its allies were pilloried for a leftism that was largely declaratory, the Left Front paid the price in its bastion of West Bengal for the “rightism” of its policies that allowed Mamata Banerjee to emerge as a defender of the peasantry’s right to till the soil.

Consider the irony: the Left broke with the Congress because it felt the latter had deviated from the Common Minimum Programme of 2004. But in 2009, it allied itself to a diverse set of political parties without any programme other than the desire to establish a “non-Congress, non-BJP” government.

So it was that the Left found itself at election time with allies such as the Telugu Desam Party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Biju Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party — groups that had no interest in pushing the direction of national economic policy one way or the other and which had all, in recent times, been closely associated with the BJP and its communal politics.

This programmatic dilution of the ‘Third Front’ allowed the grouping to look strong on paper but it was devoid of any political ballast. But even this might not have proved fatal except for another factor: As a result of its break with the Congress over an issue that was not so decisive to the direction of Indian foreign policy in the long run — the nuclear deal — the Left facilitated the creation of a coalition that went on to storm the seemingly impregnable red fortress of Bengal.

To be sure, there were and are valid reasons for the CPI(M) to have wanted to build a Third Front. But its failure to articulate a positive pro-people programme around which such a front could be established rendered the exercise electorally and politically futile.

As it looks towards rebuilding itself in Kerala and West Bengal and enlarging its prospects as a genuinely national alternative, the Left will have to be self-critical about its preference for conjuring up expedient top-down coalitions rather than organic, bottom-up alliances based on the kind of struggles and movements the communists know best.

Unless it does so, the parliamentary communist movement will find itself increasingly squeezed by Maoist extremism on the left and the electoral machine of ‘bourgeois’ parties on the right against which it cannot easily compete. If the Left needs to introspect, what of the BJP, which paid the price for believing that the Indian voter would prefer divisiveness and strife to the comforting anchor of centrism?

The rot in the party runs so deep that it cannot be reversed by the resignation of LK Advani. The very fact that its spokesmen thought Narendra Modi’s name would generate a wave in favour of the BJP despite the Supreme Court ordering a probe into his role in the 2002 mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat shows the extent to which they are out of touch with the pulse of the country.

But since the party did relatively better in Gujarat and Karnataka, especially the coastal region where Christians, Muslims and ‘immoral’ Hindus have been targeted by the Sangh Parivar, it is possible the RSS will conclude that religious polarisation is a good electoral strategy for the BJP to pursue. If this is the direction the party takes, its capacity to generate tension and insecurity in civil society will increase even if its national political prospects continue to remain dim.

As for the Congress, the party needs to guard against the hubris that usually accompanies the kind of dramatic, unexpected victory it has just received. The INC defeated the Left fair and square but must realise that its success owes more to the social-democratic elements of its economic policies than to the ‘reforms’ the party’s more affluent backers espouse.

Second, vanquishing the politics the BJP stands for requires more than electoral success. The socio-economic and administrative support structures on which the politics of communalism thrives need to be dismantled through careful, sensitive intervention.

The party must resist the old Congress way of pandering to identity politics as a low-cost way of doing the right thing by India’s diverse electorate. India’s Muslims, for example, want equal opportunities and justice, not the banning of a book or the expulsion of a Taslima Nasreen. Providing these will involve taking on entrenched interests and attitudes, especially in the police and administration, something the
Congress has always shied away from doing.

Finally, the re-election of the UPA must not be seen as a licence to indulge in the ‘Congress culture’ of the past. The public got a glimpse of that culture when some leaders started pushing for Rahul Gandhi to be made Prime Minister as soon as the scale of the party’s victory became apparent.

Sonia Gandhi did well to nip these demands in the bud. If she can go further by pensioning off entrenched interests and democratising the functioning of the party’s leadership, the Congress will be better placed to meet the expectations of those who have voted for it.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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