Thursday, April 30, 2009

Congress and BJP not committed to pro-people policies: Sitaram Yechury

Both the Congress and the BJP will not do anything meaningful to deal with the current economic crisis and it is only a non-congress and non-BJP alternative, with an alternative policy paradigm committed to the interests of the people, which can deal with it, said, Sitaram Yechury, Politburo member of the CPI (M) during an interview to the Bloomberg News Channel in New Delhi today.

Discussing about a range of issues in the midst of the Lok Sabha elections, Sitaram Yechury said that there is a real yearning among the people of the country for a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative. It is such an alternative that can shift the current policy orientation to that of a pro-people centered paradigm, committed to improve the quality of life of the people.

Asked about the CPI (M)’s prospects in the current elections against the general predication that the Left may not get the same number of seats as the last time, Yechury said in India, it is never the case that an absolute strength in parliament that matters, but it has always been a question of relative strength. Asked about the possibility of forming a government without the Congress, he said that there are objective basis to that possibility. There has been a marked shift in Indian politics. In 2004, both the Congress and BJP together got less than fifty percent of votes. In the Lok Sabha, both the Congress and BJP together were less than the majority. This effectively means that there is already a non-congress and non – BJP platform that is in the majority within the Parliament. Despite such factors, any decision will be taken after the elections, based on concrete situation.

Responding to a question on why does the CPI (M) think allies of Congress party will leave and move over and what is it that they are offered, Yechury said that the offer is to form a coalition government, in which they will be part of. Notwithstanding this is also the fact that the mass following of these parties does not want any tie up with the Congress or the BJP, anymore. There is a pressure from below, on these parties not to ally with the Congress or the BJP as it has happened in the case of the AIADMK, the TDP and the BJD.

Asked about the nature of the policy changes post-elections, Yechury said that the priority is to deal with the current economic crisis that the country is facing. Both the Congress and the BJP are in a denial mode vis-à-vis the economic crisis. What it requires is a huge surge in public investment, which neither the Congress nor the BJP are committed to. The commitment so far made by the Congress led government is far too insufficient to deal the crisis of this magnitude. While the requirement is at least government spending of not less than 10 percent of the GDP, what we have witnessed so far is far too less, when compared to countries like China. While monetising deficit is important, it is also important not to forget the lessons of history, which is, no recession can be dealt without deficits.

Answering to a query if the CPI (M) would still be opposed to disinvestment, in the context of ‘slowdown’, Yechury asked if there is any real basis to the idea that such disinvestment will help bring in more investment. The task at hand to the contrary is to build and create assets, along with a concerted commitment to create more jobs. Creating employment to large sections of the people that will spur real demand should be the objective, he said. Asked about the issue of bringing in illegally stashes money from abroad, Yechury said that the issue was first raised by the CPI (M) on 23rd February, 2009. This is not to claim ownership of the idea, but to point out why we are skeptical about the concern of the BJP in brining up the issue. What made such huge chunk of money flight from the country in the first place, are the policies pursued by the BJP when in power. Removal of FERA, emphasis on the Mauritius route, removal of long terms capital gains tax and permitting participatory notes in stock markets. These contributed in a very large way to the phenomenon of tax evasion, not to mention the fact that taxation has been looked mainly as a source of revenue and not so much as a regulating mechanism too. So, unless these policy measures are reversed, mere talk of brining in money from abroad would not be meaningful, he argued. He also added that this is the best opportunity for India to breach secrecy and therefore the necessity for India to join the queue along with other countries like the USA and the UK.

In responding to query about the future of the nuclear deal after the elections, Yechury said that real objection to the deal, as far as the CPI (M) is concerned is the fact that stringent extraneous conditions were attached to the deal in the name of nuclear commerce, involving threats to the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. The CPI (M) will never compromise on the issue of pursuing an independent foreign policy and if there is a possibility that the deal can be reworked without involving any external conditionalities, then there are possibilities. With the change of guard in the US, which is precisely what the CPI (M) argued during the debate on the nuclear deal that India should press the ‘pause’ button and not go ahead with the deal then. With the democrats in power in the US, who are known for their commitment to non-proliferation, there exist concrete possibilities to rework the agreement, he said.

Asked if the CPI (M) will still be opposed to foreign investment, Yechury said that the CPI (M)’s stance on this is linked to three factors: that any investment should augment the productive capacity of the economy; increase technological capabilities and transfer and produce gainful employment. But this is not what we have witnessed, as in the case of foreign investment in the retail sector for instance. In times of financial uncertainty, it is important that any foreign investment caters to the real concerns and priorities of strengthening our economy, he added.

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