Interviewed by SOMJIT NAHA | April 09, 2018
Following its incredible victory over the Left Front in the recent assembly polls in Tripura, the BJP is already pinning its hopes on the Lok Sabha seats from the CPI-M in the 2019 general elections. But CPI(M) has definitely not given up hopes. In light of this, TNT- the Northeast Today speaks to one of the tallest and prominent CPI(M) leader and MP for Tripura East, Jitendra Choudhary following the defeat in an exclusive interview.
TNT- Sir, tell us what went wrong this time?
Jitendra Choudhury- (Smiles) Anything
TNT- Do you feel the CPI(M) was unable to judge the political aura or was it sheer overconfidence?
Jitendra Choudhury- No, that is not the point. You see every election or any game you have to overview it with its situation; in what situation this election was conducted in the state of Tripura. Left Front is in power in Tripura for the last 25 years and all its program was for the welfare of the common people and other National parties like the BJP and Indian National Congress frame their policies for the common people similarly but we the Left Front here in Tripura tried to form a different kind of policy within the framework of the constitution for the welfare of the common people which we term Alternative Development Policy. All our policies, be it in the field of Education, Agriculture or Health were mainly focused towards the downtrodden common people and we were able to enhance the situation of the families of the state in all social parameters. In other parts of the country, these people were neglected but here in Tripura they were given the most priority. But our policies have antagonised the feudal, capitalists and other sections of the society. So, if you analyse this election the Left Front were able to get 45% votes of his committed voters but were unable to attract the floating voters. BJP which is new in Tripura, in other parts of India it may have its presence but in Tripura they hardly had any presence before 3 years, they were able to polarize all the anti-left votes by their policies which was focused on the antagonised sections of the society.
TNT- Do you feel now after the election results and after the chest thumping victory of BJP, the people were not content with the previous regime or may be disappointed with CPI(M)?
Jitendra Choudhury- This is not anger. We are also conducting through analysis and we are going up to the bottom and if you go by the trend of the votes, there are two sections of the society who were affected the most by the campaign of BJP those were youth and the employees. You see it is election commission who conducts the votes and with the help of the employees. If you go by the history of Tripura’s election even when Sachindra Lal Singh’s and Sukhomoy Sengupta’s government was here in Tripura, at that time also the employees votes were always for CPI(M). In the 2013 assembly elections and in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections the Left-Front got more than 50% nearly 60% of the ‘Postal Ballot’ votes but this time it is exactly opposite where Left-Front secured only 33% whereas BJP got 66% votes and others got 1%. The employees were participating in our processions and rallies but they have voted for BJP because the way BJP has campaigned, where the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister of the country comes and tells to the public that after the BJP govt. comes in power those who are getting 25000 salary will get 50000 salary. I am not saying that the employees got greedy but in today’s era of consumerism this happens. Now if you talk about fair election how can a Finance Minister of the country say that if BJP comes in power then whatever fund is required will be released by the govt. of India which is never heard of. So, in the part of an Union Minister was it fair to speak like that but in the name of election it has been done. So, in Tripura there are 1,70,000 employees, soon an average 5,10,000 votes. BJP was able to polarize the votes.
Now secondly, were the youths, last week I went to Ramnagar village at Gandacherra, they also asked me the same question that what went wrong comrade? I replied, to them that at 1993 when I became Minister for the first time I was 35 years old, there were no roads,no shops, no GCI sheet homes. From Gandacherra I came by boat over here and you all greeted me at that time what were your expectations, ‘We are very humble citizen of the state we are all Jumias and we will be obliged if you give us some gracious relief (GR) but after 25 years who had came to greet me at that time they are having rubber garden, some of them are having shops in the Ramnagar market, some are doing jobs, those days you didn’t even had a pair of chappals but if any Minister of the new govt. comes what will the people demand, my son is a Graduate, my daughter is Masters so we want job for them. At that time your demand was 10 rupees today your demand is 50,000 or even lakh. It was possible because of the welfare measures of the Left-Front govt. We were able to make lots of graduates, lots of Masters but were not able to give that many jobs which was not possible which created frustration among the youths. But BJP they came and promised 7,00,000 jobs within 3 years which attracted the youths towards them. But it is the same BJP which promised to give 2 cr. Jobs every year, how many jobs have they given, let’s see how many jobs they will be able to give here in Tripura.
TNT- The Indigenous people, the minorities, farmers, lower middle, daily wagers have always been the target of the Left parties. Do you feel that BJP with its movements were able to shift the support base towards them?
Jitendra Choudhury- No here in Tripura, the shift is basically in these two sections (employees, youth) and this shift is not permanent. For the time being the entire Central govt. machinery has very tactfully targeted these two sections of people across all communities, religion and social perimeters.
Why Twipraland, from where it has come? Even, the leaders and all the other organisation members know that it is very difficult to implement but even though a section of the Indigenous youth, they got trapped. Why? Because they have sold the dream like that if the new govt. comes what will be shape and policies no one knows but if a new state is made then within Indian system there are 65 department, so if at least 3000 thousand jobs are given in every department then 4 lakh jobs will be given to the indigenous people instantly. So, the youth got allude by them but they will realize soon that this is all a fragment of imagination.
TNT- Is CPI(M) willing to give the newly elected government the fair amount of time to fulfil their promises or are you people going to protest straight out considering the time limit for the General Elections?
Jitendra Choudhury- Definitely, it is for the political shape. If today I say that they will do nothing and start protesting then it will be injustice to the mandate of the people. So, we are not going to say tomorrow that you can’t do it so the government must be thrown out. We are ready to give them legitimate time to fulfil their promises. And we as a constructive opposition is ready to support them.
TNT- Do you think IPFT-BJP alliance will prove fruitful in the long run?
Jitendra Choudhury- How come, this can’t be because this alliance is built on the foundation of a wrong motion. As the people of the state is seeing themselves that one alliance partner (IPFT) of the govt. is demanding for an Indigenous state and on the contrary the other partner (BJP) is openly rejecting their demand and all of these is happening within a span of one month after formation of the government. How long do you think this will work?
TNT- We are almost one year away from the General elections and since you are a sitting M.P. it is obvious that you are going to contest the elections for CPI(M) . So, how do you think you will be able to stop BJP after such a chest thumping victory of BJP in Tripura?
Jitendra Choudhury- General elections are different from the state elections. Even in the last General elections the national phenomenon could not affect the elections of Tripura. So, when the general elections will come the national issues will be very prominent. As, you are witnessing the national scenario is fast changing, now the budget session is going on since 5th March which is almost 20 days not a single business has been tranjected. AIADMK who was always close to BJP are now unhappy with the BJP because of the Kaveri water dispute, TDP who was an ally of BJP has parted their ways with BJP and is now protesting against BJP, Shivsena is unhappy against BJP, TRS who has always supported BJP in the last four years are now against BJP. Why is this happening? You see, it is the governments duty to run the house (treasury bench) but there has not been a single move from their side, they have not dared to have a single meeting with the opposition members this session. There is not even a single minute of discussion with the opposition members, which shows there arrogance, they believe that they will be in power forever. Time will judge them.
TNT- Is your party planning to contest the General elections along with Indian National Congress or is there a possibility of a third front?
Jitendra Choudhury- Left parties are going by the experience of the past. We are not in a mood of forming any third front or be a member of an alliance but we are certain that to defeat BJP either in any by-elections, assembly elections, general elections our emphasis would be wherever either regional party or Congress party or any other party we will unconditionally back them and support them. But in Tripura where is Congress? Can you find Congress in Tripura. But as I have said when time will come and we will make our strategy if needed we are willing to support them as well or any front.
But nothing is certain as of now. There are very hectic talks going on at the National level ,every day the graph is changing, every day the faith for Narendra Modi is diminishing.
TNT- Media is an important factor for winning elections, especially the new media or the social media. As you might be knowing that Rajat Sethi with his IT team was here in Tripura for months for making strategies for BJP and they used the social media at its best to attract voters towards BJP. Even the Congress party with programs like All India Professional Congress are trying to attract people especially youth with the help of various mediums. But CPI(M) is still lagging behind and is only dependent on conventional mediums of promotions. How are you planning to revive your party with new mediums?
Jitendra Choudhury- See, in my limited knowledge of politics what is working fine today will not work tomorrow and what will work tomorrow will not workday after. So, the same tactics will not work for them every time. This Rajat Sethi’s and Prasant Bhusan’s tactics might work as a fluke but when the people is determined nothing will work. So, they will be the deciding factor of Indian politics is far from reality. We are also upgrading our cyber team but it is very difficult to tackle them in the new media because they are spending huge money. In Tripura their IT cell and whatever materials they have introduced it requires huge investment. They had purchased all the time slot of the local channels and front pages of esteemed dailies which is impossible for us to invest such amount of resources.
TNT- Sir, there had been a lot of demands from the Indigenous people to have a Chief Ministerial candidate of the ruling party from their own community this time and they are the ones who had always voted in favour of CPI(M) then why was CPI(M) unwilling to fulfill their demand?
Jitendra Choudhury- You see our party works in a collective manner there is no top to bottom system in CPI(M). So, if Jitendra Choudhury is in National politics then it is quite obvious that Jitendra Choudhury wanted to represent his party in the National level. Moreover any single individual cannot make a huge impact. Of course his work will make a difference but it will not make an impact. So, whatever good has been done in Tripura Jitendra Choudhury was a part of it, similarly if there is anything wrong done then Jitendra Choudhury is also to be blamed. Some hoax has been created by the media that Jitendra Choudhury has been shunted out and they are the ones who are propagating this theory. See what happened, after the 2011 debacle in West Bengal it was clear that our no. of M.P.’s are going to be less in Lok Sabha as our most M.P.’s come from West Bengal. So, it was decided that someone vocal and experienced from Tripura must be sent from Lok Sabha from Tripura. So, the party has suggested my name and I also wanted to represent my party at the Lok Sabha as I was in the state cabinet for a long period of time. So, it is not that someone conspired against me and I got shunted out. It is not that easy. Moreover, people must understand how can we change our sitting Chief Minister.
But I am also active in state politics now and if needed I will come back to state politics.
TNT- What is your party’s future plan of action in Tripura and how are you going to fight against BJP?
Jitendra Choudhury- Now, our first priority is to protect our activists and our party offices from the hooligans of BJP and IPFT . They are attacking our party members all across the state. There is no rule of law in the entire state. Once we frame out our plan of action to fight BJP, we will inform our activists all across the state. But one thing is for sure, we are ready to give them a rigorous fight and they will witness the strength of Leftist ideology.
The interviewer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org