Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI). He was a member of the 12th and 14th Lok Sabha when he represented Nalgonda constituency, now in Telangana.
He was elected to serve as General Secretary of the CPI at the 21st party congress in 2012. He was re-elected at its 22nd congress in Puducherry. In an interview with, Reddy discussed a range of issues.
How do you assess the last 16 months of the Narendra Modi government?
We had no illusions from the first day of this government about the pro- rich and pro- corporate policies it would follow. But the extent to which it has gone to help big business houses over the last 16 months has surpassed our imagination. Unemployment and price rise are such serious issues that affect the lives of the poor people but the Prime Minister has not once expressed concern about them. Not a single cabinet meeting has been held or special committees formed to address these two issues.
During the last three quarters the gap between exports and imports has widened. At present there is a thirty per cent gap between them. The land acquisition Ordinance promulgated thrice by this government to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act is an example of the government&’s pro-corporate and anti-farmers policy.
For the country&’s progress new industries are a must and that can only be set up on land.
We also want more and more new industries to come up. The industrial growth must reflect itself in Human Index Growth. Moreover, it should be employment generating without taking away farmers’ livelihood. During the past decade the GDP grew on an average at the rate of seven per cent but the growth in employment generation was around 1.5 per cent for the same time span.
The previous UPA government also wanted to enact a similar industry-friendly land acquisition law, but because of protests by farmers and peasants organizations it had to incorporate certain clauses which make both farmers’ approval as well as environment assessment impact mandatory. Nowhere in the world does the government take away land from the farmer and hand it over to industries.
In all other respects the government appeared overly enthusiastic about following the rules of market economy, but when it comes to farmers it wanted enactment of a law that will empower it to acquire land on behalf of the big private industries. Private industries can themselves purchase land at prevailing market prices. The government of India is doing so because of an old colonial habit.
What about the labour reforms the government intends to bring about for industrial growth?
Even in industries that have already been set up, the government is not protecting the rights of the workers. The Japanese company Suzuki does not give to Indian workers in India the same remuneration and other benefits it gives to Japanese workers in Japan. In the name of labour reforms, the government is trying to alienate all the rights the working class has. After the proposed amendment of the Factory Act, there will be no guarantee of minimum wage, pension, gratuity and working hours, etc.
Now ‘Make in India’ is another method of inviting foreign companies to exploit cheap labour force abundantly available in India. The government is trying to lure MNCs promising them cheap labour which in turn will result in increased exploitation of the labour force. Make in India means our land, our resources, our labour and they will come and manufacture. But in so doing the government is also waiving minimum guarantee given by MNCs that the profit will not be taken away outside the country for a minimum of three years. Despite that so far no offshore company has made any commitment to start manufacturing in India under Make in India programme. It is different from made in India.
Your thoughts on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently pitching for review of the reservation policy. What is the harm in reviewing who should be given reservation and who should not be? Certain sections among OBCs are as well off or educated as forward castes.
There is no need to discuss creamy layer among the OBCs till 27 per cent of quota for them is fully availed of.
In this respect your party&’s approach is no different from caste-based regional parties whose rise and Left parties’ decline is simultaneous in the Hindi heartland, especially in Bihar and UP.
Our decline in the Hindi heartland also coincides with the rise of the BJP. These regional, caste-based parties like the RJD, JD (U), SP, BSP DMK, AIDMK represent the interests of the regional bourgeoisie. Apart from Left parties, Congress too has gone down substantially in Bihar and UP after the rise of these caste-based regional parties. But we believe this phenomenon is not going to last very long and people who have deserted us to join them will finally come back to us. They still hold us in high esteem but don’t vote for us. Finally they will come to terms with the reality.
Why have six Left parties decided against joining the JD (U)-led Mahagathbandhan and are contesting the Bihar assembly polls as a separate Front?
Our main problem with the JD (U) led Mahagathbandhan is that it included RJD and Congress. The RJD chief has already been convicted by a court in the fodder scam case. The Congress on account of its omissions and commissions during UPA-II is also a discredited party in people&’s eyes. As far as JD (U) is concerned, in our opinion, it will be swept away by a massive anti- incumbency against it.
Moreover, Left parties hold the JD (U) responsible for not implementing the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission (LRC) under D Bandopadhyay. Nitish Kumar after coming to power in 2005 had set up the commission, which submitted its final report in April 2008. However, buckling under pressure of vested interests, Nitish gave a quiet burial to the Bandopadhyay panel recommendations.
Therefore, we thought it prudent to independently improve our image which had suffered in the last several years due to our alliance with caste-based regional parties accused of perpetuating family rule. We want an identity for Left parties independent of both the Congress and the caste-based regional parties.
What kind of relationship will communist parties have with the Congress at the national level in years to come?
Like we have done in Bihar, we want to build an independent block of the Left parties at the national level as well. Though we are in favour of joint action with Congress on certain issues like in defence of secularism or fighting against communal forces, an electoral understanding with it in future is ruled out. Like the BJP, the Congress too is in favour of an anti-people, neo-liberal economy. We know that the Congress is a secular party and not a communal party but its commitment to fight communalism unconditionally is doubtful. It is a party that does not practice communalism but at times make compromises with communal forces. Only on the basis of secularism we cannot have a political understanding with the Congress in future.
Left parties are accused of being soft on Islamic terror and quite vocal against Hindu militant outfits.
It is because Left parties talk about security for Muslims and are opposed to the government&’s action of falsely implicating young Muslims in terror-related cases. In fact, Left parties are one of the main targets of Islamic terrorism. Even dictators in Islamic countries are against Communist parties. They are banned in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In Afghanistan Islamic terrorism led by Osama bin Laden fought against communists. In the entire Gulf region Left parties are banned. In Syria and Iraq, where communist parties were very strong, they are banned now.