The Left parties have made no bones about their intention to call the shots in the new government that will take office in New Delhi.
The second largest coalition partner after the Congress in the United Progressive Alliance, they are determined to play a decisive role in steering the nation's course.
The Communist Party of India, with 10 Lok Sabha seats, was keen on joining the government but with the Communist Party of India-Marxist rejecting the idea, the CPI also agreed to the common Left proposal to stay out of power.
In an interview with Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan talks about why Sonia Gandhi stepped down as the prime ministerial candidate and how the Left parties will function in the new government.
The CPI, he adds, is willing to reconsider its decision not to join the government but as of now the priority is to lend quality support to the Congress.
Why do you think Sonia Gandhi has declined the prime ministership?
From the very beginning she has been reluctant to take up the post. In the past one week, I have met her a number of times during her meetings with the coalition partners. She was always unwilling to take up the top post. But we have been telling her that she should take it up and lead the coalition government. We truly believed she would do that.
So why did she change her mind suddenly?
Maybe she has been thinking about it. Maybe her family members, her children, advised against becoming the prime minister. It is a family that has suffered the most. Therefore, we can understand the conviction behind Sonia Gandhi's renunciation.
Did coalition partners like the Left front ask Sonia Gandhi to reconsider her decision?
We asked her a number of times. But I feel once she decides on something, she sticks to it very firmly.
What do you think of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin issue taken up by the Bharatiya Janata Party?
The BJP has exposed itself as a party that suffers from a poverty of ideas. The BJP has lost the people's mandate. Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin was a non-issue in this election, but the BJP has been taking it up again. See, these days leaders like L K Advani and A B Vajpayee are keeping their mouth shut. They have nothing to talk about. What a fall! The BJP has egg on its face.
Do you have a problem with the Congress nominating another candidate as prime minister?
No. It is the Congress party's prerogative to nominate anyone to be the prime minister. We will abide by what the Congress decides.
What about Dr Manmohan Singh as prime minister?
We do not have any problems with Manmohan as prime minister. For that matter, we did not have any problems including with Sonia Gandhi.
But in the 1990s the Left parties had opposed Dr Singh's economic reforms programme.
Yes. But that does not mean he should not be the prime minister. The Congress has also realised that it has to make amends in crucial policy matters including economic reforms to ensure that the country moves forward in a corrective, progressive manner.
Also Read: What the Left Wants
The Left parties are not against economic reforms. We are against reforms that lack a human face. We are against reforms that lead people to lose their jobs. We want reforms to end poverty, illiteracy and improve the health conditions of millions of people.
We want reforms to ensure that there are jobs for the millions of unemployed youth in India.
Don't you think it is better for the Left parties to join the government so that your policies and programmes will be better implemented?
The CPI is all for joining the government. If you remember, in 1996 the CPI had joined the government headed by H D Deve Gowda while the CPI-M stayed out. Now also, our party wanted to participate. But we have decided against joining the government because the Left parties want to be a united force and support the Congress government from the outside.
Will the CPI reconsider its decision to join the government?
Yes. We are ready to reconsider. But right now our decision is to lend quality support from outside.
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