A pre-poll alliance with the Congress is ruled out, says Kerala Chief Minister and CPI (M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan, who appears not to completely rule out a tactical tie-up with it after the 2019 general elections to check the BJP.
The Marxist leader also favours his party taking the initiative in mobilising secular parties, especially the regional ones, against the Bharatiya Janata Party in various states.
"Generally speaking, there is no question of any truck or alliance with the Congress. The Congress is not a party with which we can have an alliance. Other things are hypothetical," Vijayan told IANS in an interview in New Delhi.
The Chief Minister also talked about the "flop show" of the BJP-RSS against the Left in Kerala and controversies like beef ban and the atmosphere of intolerance in the country.
Having come under pressure from the BJP and the RSS-led Sangh Parivar, which has launched an aggressive campaign 'Janraksha Yatra' (Protect People March) in his state, the veteran leader vowed to fight the BJP and the Sangh Parivar "tooth and nail", saying they want to "destroy" Kerala, which the people won't support.
"The BJP had become a national enemy with its policies and the country was in deep economic trouble due to demonetisation and the GST (Goods and Services Tax)," he said. He also accused the BJP of towing the RSS line completely and spreading intolerance in the society by forcing people's eating habits and violence against intellectuals.
The CPI (M) leader's stand on pre-poll alliance assumes significance in the context of the just-concluded three-day meeting of the party Central Committee, which discussed the issue amid speculation that a section of the party, led by General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and including VS Achuthanandan, favoured a tie-up with the Congress to take on the BJP.
Media reports say the Central Committee was divided 32-31 against a tie-up with the Congress. The section led by former General Secretary Prakash Karat was said to be strongly opposed to doing business with the Congress.
Asked if the party would reconsider the strategy of not tying up with the Congress to keep the BJP at bay, Vijayan said: "Things about elections the party will decide at that time. We can talk about it only at that time. We cannot take a total stand right now."
To a question whether tactical seat adjustments with the Congress was possible, he said: "In this current atmosphere, this is our stand. Rest of the things we will think at the time of the election."
The Chief Minister said that even in 2004 elections, because of the danger of the BJP, the Left and the Congress entered into a Common Minimum Programme, but the government formed by the Congress pursued neo-liberalisation policies, which were now being followed by BJP.
"The BJP is the main enemy, but that doesn't mean that the policies of the Congress are welcome. To oppose communalism and neo-liberal policies is our stand," the leader said. The Congress never accepted that it made a mistake, he added.
On tying up with non-Congress secular parties, he said the CPI (M) would make electoral alliances to defeat the BJP.
Asked about the recurring political violence in Kannur district in Kerala between the CPI (M) and RSS cadres, the trigger for the Sangh Parivar's verbal assault on the ruling party, Vijayan laid the blame squarely on the RSS.
"The RSS started it. The attack was started to gain power (control of area) in a specific way.
"Now, we tried to end these violence through peace talks. After becoming Chief Minister, we had discussions in two stages: All party meeting and bilateral meetings and a consensus was reached to restore peace," he added.
But, Vijayan said, after the talks there have been incidents and the RSS had given leadership. "That's why the whole problem is not ending."
He referred to the much-publicised Janraksha Yatra this month when BJP President Amit Shah travelled to Payyannur in Kannur to launch the campaign, which Vijayan termed "a complete flop."
"Amit Shah thought and gave an impression that the whole of Kerala will go berserk and follow him. In their march, apart from those walking on the road with them, there was no one to welcome them. Because of the failure, the next day Amit Shah called off a march he was to carry through in front of my house in Kannur," the veteran leader said.
Vijayan said for the first time in the history of the country the entire power of the Centre was used in a state against a political rival.
"Central ministers, Chief Ministers of different states and MPs all had come to Kerala for the march. Even though it is said to be BJP's march, actually the RSS is behind it. The RSS chief in his Vijayadasami speech had attacked Kerala and the march followed the speech."
The Chief Minister expressed satisfaction over the result in the Assembly by-election in Vengara, where the BJP was pushed to the fourth position in the midst of attempts by the RSS to pitchfork the party to the front.
Though the LDF lost the elections, it raised its vote share by getting 40,000 plus votes in the area, which is dominated by Indian Union Muslim League.
On the controversies surrounding the ban on beef, Vijayan said the BJP was implementing RSS' policies of intolerance.
"People have different eating habits. Can anyone say that you should eat only what I eat? If someone does, can the society accept it? But they (BJP) sought to enforce it with very high intolerance. What right do I have to look at what is the food stored in your kitchen? They're doing this because they're in power," Vijayan said.
Referring to killing of intellectuals by suspected rightwing forces, he said: "Your opinion may not match mine and I can oppose it openly and that's the tradition which was being followed in our country. But now people who speak up are being killed. Thinkers Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkar were killed. Then Gauri Lankesh and Santanu. All this shows a high level of intolerance."