|Mamata on mind? Karat addresses the media conference in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 14: Prakash Karat today pledged “direct action” by the CPM to prevent foreign retail giants from opening shop in India, the aggressive stance reflecting a desperation to upstage Mamata Banerjee on the issue.
“To ensure that no Walmart or other supermarkets are opened in India, the CPM will go for direct action,” the party general secretary said after a three-day central committee meeting.
Asked what he meant by “direct action” and whether party activists would attack foreign retail shops, Karat quickly invoked Gandhian methods.
“There are various forms and methods of agitation in our country. Satyagraha is there,” he said.
Party insiders said the belligerent posture was prompted by a desperation to outshine Mamata, who is perceived as having taken the lead in the race for political mileage by quitting the government on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail.
Another factor, they said, was a desire to emulate social activists such as Arvind Kejriwal at a time the Left is being criticised for its failure to take up mass movements.
Party leaders now regularly have to hear how social activists have succeeded in mobilising public opinion on various subjects while the Left has failed to do so.
The central committee meeting, sources said, dwelt at length on what strategy the party should adopt inside and outside Parliament. The members felt the CPM should be upfront and hold agitations to build public opinion.
“FDI will form the key issue of our agitation against the government’s anti-people policies. In November, we will hold conventions in state capitals and major cities to build public opinion against FDI in multi-brand retail,” Karat said.
The party wants to be riding high before the winter session of Parliament kicks off.
As for its Parliament strategy, the idea is to talk to other Opposition parties and bring in a resolution against retail FDI and perhaps seek a vote on it, thus preventing Mamata from stealing a march on the CPM. Mamata has already declared Trinamul would move a resolution and seek a House vote.
“Over FDI in retail... an overwhelming majority in Parliament is against it. We would like Parliament to express its verdict or opinion on the issue,” Karat said, declining to give details.
Party insiders, however, said that despite its excitement at the Jangipur by-election results, where it lost narrowly, the CPM did not want an early election and so would not like the government to fall.
Therefore, unlike Mamata, it may agree to a discussion on FDI under a clause that does not entail voting.
The CPM’s wariness about early polls was evident: Karat repeatedly side-stepped queries on whether the party was eager to bring down the “anti-people” government and whether it would support a no-confidence motion against the Centre if Trinamul moved one.
“What the TMC will do or not do is not the issue of discussion. We will finalise our strategy before the Parliament session. It is still a long way (off),” Karat replied.
However, the central committee keenly discussed what tactics the party would use if Trinamul moved a no-trust motion with BJP support.
The committee felt the party should mount an attack on the government for its policies but should not be seen aligning with the BJP. It felt the party’s strategy should be to push Mamata towards the BJP and politically isolate her from secular groups such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.