Last week, the smallest party in the Left Front, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, withdrew from the almost-defunct United Progressive Alliance-Left co-ordination committee.
The party also urged the other Left parties to reconsider their support to the UPA government and thus cut their losses.
The move was also seen as the first step by the RSP to sever ties with the Communist Party of India-Marxist and float an alternative Left Front in West Bengal, where the two parties clashed during the recent panchayat polls in which one RSP worker was killed.
RSP leader Abani Roy spoke to rediff.com's Krishnakumar P about the reason for pulling out of a committee that hasn't met for many months, the Centre's policies, the uneasy relations with the CPI-M and the Left's prospects in the coming general elections.
The price of petroleum products has increased on an unprecedented scale...
That was just one of our apprehensions about the policies of this government when our central committee recently. Everyday, there was speculation about the price of petro-products. We had given suggestions to the Centre on how to control price rise on several occasions.
Whenever there is an increase in the international level, this government has blindly increased the prices without looking into the details.
When you increase the price of LPG by Rs 50, it is the poor who will be the most hit -- both in the urban as well as rural areas. At the end of the day, the rich end up enjoying the benefits of subsidies.
The government is talking about the rationing system. That will create a black market and people will start hoarding.
Thus, the first thing that is needed is transparency in the process of hiking prices.
Last week, your party pulled out of the UPA-Left coordination committee, which has not even met in the past many months. What is the logic behind the move?
That committee is basically a policy-making/decision-making body. Just because the Left parties were raising objections on various matters like disinvestment and the hike in the price of petro-products, the UPA government decided to make it functionless.
There are six people from the Left parties -- two each from the CPI-M and the Communist Party of India, and one each from the RSP and the Forward Bloc -- in the committee. Whenever the government wants something pushed -- like with the nominations of the President and the vice-president -- they call the members of the committee on some other pretext and push their agenda.
So, though the committee may be functionless, it exists. It has not been dissolved or declared defunct. That is why the RSP withdrew from the committee in protest against the unilateral functioning of the UPA.
If these are the differences and nothing has been done to address them, why not withdraw support to the government?
On the question of withdrawal of support to the government the RSP has been writing to the other Left parties. We have many times in the past requested the other three left parties to reconsider the support to the UPA government. In three years, we haven't got any response. So, our central committee decided to withdraw from the coordination committee and once again request the other Left parties to thoroughly review the support to the UPA, which is continuously taking an anti-people stand.
So, this withdrawal from the coordination committee is a token protest. If the others don't respond, we will unilaterally withdraw support to the government.
While you have withdrawn from one committee and are talking about withdrawal of support, why do you still continue to be part of the coordination committee on the nuke deal?
This is a functional body that discusses the Indo-US nuke deal. We have managed to keep the government from signing any deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency. By our continuous resistance the deal has been avoided. That is why this committee has special significance when it comes to policy and we continue to be there. The two should not be compared.
Also, don't you think it is too late to act now in terms of withdrawing support? Hasn't the damage already been done to the Left's reputation among the people?
Yes the damage has already been done. It is already too late. When someone says we will not just bark, we will also bite, they should do it. But, yes, it is too late now. What is the point in sitting with them and criticising them and not doing anything solid?
How have relations between your party and the other Left parties been of late?
We think a serious Left alternative should emerge to counter the capitalist Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Just to keep the communal forces at bay, to support the Congress and its allies forever will not help the poor. It is high time the other Left parties took some measures.
There were reports that said you will invite the Trinamool Congress to the Left conclave you have planned in West Bengal...
That is a distortion of facts. What our leader in Bengal said was that nobody is an untouchable in politics. He pointed to the fact that the TC is also working for the same class that the Left is catering to. But we still haven't taken any decision about inviting the TC to the conclave.
What about the CPI-Marxist-Leninist and the Maoists?
We have always said we are ready to consider ties with the Maoists if they lay down arms. By the way, who are these Maoists? They are the same people disgruntled with the government's policies. Even in West Bengal, the people who feel they are wronged by the policies of the state government go and become Maoists.
About the West Bengal government...
The government's policy has become one of grabbing land from the poor and giving it to industries. This must stop. The CPI-M says we have ruled West Bengal for 30 years and that is a record. The number of people who have been killed in the recent past will also be a record. Why are they not talking about it? How popular was Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (West Bengal chief minister) when he took over and look at him now? Doesn't that show this government is doing something wrong?
Your party workers clashed with the CPI-M workers during the panchayat polls. Has that affected the ties between the two parties?
The CPI-M has made mistakes and we are telling them to rectify those. There is some misunderstanding in this regard. We just want them to see reason in what we are saying.
Regarding the violence during the polls, one of their leaders had said in the run up to the polls that it will be a bloody one. That was what happened. It was premeditated.
Where do you think the Left parties stand with elections nearing?
We have lost ground. The Left was respected, but people are also watching what is happening in your state. So many people were killed. Land -- even multi-crop land -- was acquired from the poor and given to the industries. This is blatant misuse of power and the people are watching. That and the continuation of support to a government that repeatedly takes anti-people stands will cost the Left. It is too late, but we will still try and ask the other Left parties to reconsider the support to the UPA.
Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Pictures