New Delhi, India - One of the salient features of India's ongoing parliamentary elections has been the near absence of Left parties from the political discourse.
The newly-formed anti-corruption party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), seems to have received all the attention for raising many issues that were once dear to the Left politics.
Sitaram Yechury, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPM), which ruled the eastern West Bengal state for more than three decades, says that the third political front will emerge as a viable option after the elections.
The communist leader says that the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi, is more hype than actual reality, while terming the AAP’s policies as nebulous.
The CPM leader said that media was entirely focused on the "peripheral issues" and not the ground reality.
Al Jazeera's Anmol Saxena spoke to Yechury, who has been the voice of the Indian Left for the past decade.
Al Jazeera: What are the main issues do you think the Indian electorate is facing in the 2014 elections? Are they any different from what they were in 2009?
Sitaram Yechury: Essentially it is the same. The dominating feature of this election is that people all across the country are concerned about whether the new government formed after May 16 will provide them relief in their day-to-day life. They are being burdened with this relentless price rise, economic slowdown and unemployment.
So, relief from growing economic burden is their dominant concern this time.
And in that sense there is a difference. This was not so prominent in people's minds in 2009 as it is now. That is why people are actually looking for a different and inclusive direction this time. To a large extent, people think neither the BJP nor the Congress (party) will be able to provide them that.
AJ: Many analysts believe this has become a presidential-style election? Do you think it has become about "personalities" and not "issues"?
SY: That is not the truth…no…the political parties who are shying away from taking the issues head-on want to make it a presidential form of election.
The feeling that I get from my extensive travels, is that this election largely depends on a host of local factors more than any national sweep of elections: the choice of the candidates; and whom you vote for is a very large consequence of specific and local factors.
AJ: Do you sense a growing rural-urban divide in the electorate?
SY: There is a grinding feeling…the feeling that I am talking of, the relief that people want is very much more pronounced in the rural areas. It is not so much in those sections of urban areas which have perceived the benefits of the current packages of neo-liberal reforms. But it is equally true of the urban poor as well. It is not as pronounced in the urban middle class, particularly upper middle class. This is the reality of the two Indias - the India of the rich and the India of the poor.
AJ: What are your thoughts on the role of the media? Do you think Indian media is facing a litmus test this election season?
SY: The Indian media is entirely focused on what I would call extremely peripheral issues. And that is not the ground reality as far as I can gauge. Yes, they are missing the point. These are similar scenes, like the ones we saw during the 2004 with BJP’s “India Shining” campaign when some opinion polls and the same TV anchors went to the extent of saying that Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and his NDA (National Democratic Alliance) would win 350 seats. We all saw what happened. This appears to be exactly like that disconnected hype.
AJ: In 2004, the Left played a central role not only on shaping the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, but also directing policies of the government. What role do you envisage for the Left after 2014 elections?
SY: We see a similar role, maybe not the same extent of influence that we exerted in 2004, but qualitatively it would be a similar role.
AJ: You still think the Third Front is an option?
SY: Yes ideally, that is what we are working for: an alternative front and I think by all reckoning that is something that will be real…it all depends on the numbers…
AJ: And who would head this Front?
SY: It will be the results that will determine the answer to that…It will nominally be led by the single largest group within that formation.
AJ: What are your views on Aam Aadmi Party?
SY: They are still nebulous in terms of their policy direction. Even recently they said “we are neither left nor right”…so that is a crucial issue before the people in this election whether they are clear about policy direction.
AJ: Do you see the party occupying the same space which India’s Left parties have all this while?
SY: They are cashing in on positioning themselves as being equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, which has traditionally been a strong position of the Left.
AJ: Do you ever feel that the romanticism attached with Communism is losing its sheen in India?
SY: No, that is not true. They think that there has been a crisis in the world and the wheel is spinning and all their dreams associated with reforms have not materialised. So that idealism is coming back in a different form.
AJ: What are your thoughts on Narendra Modi?
SY: He is a lot more hype than actual reality...I do not think there is any such personal appeal as is being projected.
AJ: Is this more of a Congress loss than a BJP gain? Will regional parties fill that gap?
SY: I think regional parties will fill it more than anyone else. Where the BJP is also a strong regional force the BJP will benefit. But I think the chances of a rainbow coalition are much more than a saffron one.
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