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Interview With Suneet Chopra

Interview With Suneet Chopra

The war of words over note ban continues between the government and the Opposition. While the government defends its decision saying it has destroyed, in one stroke, fake notes, terrorism, human trafficking and drug mafia, the Opposition has decided to step up protests and chart a common agenda. But fissures within the Opposition are visible as Left parties did not take part in Tuesday’s (December 27) tea party meet and the press conference addressed by Rahul Gandhi along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other leaders. CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury insisted that "unity continues to be there". He stressed on the need for proper consultations among Opposition parties to strengthen their unity.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to another Marxist leader and Mr Yechuri’s party colleague Suneet Chopra who is extremely critical of note ban. He claims that the government has ruined the informal economy and helped the corrupt. The CPM’s former central committee member pitched for opposition parties making efforts to see that problems faced by people end soon.

IC: What has been the impact of demonetization, according to you?

Suneet Chopra: Narendra Modi’s demonetization has ruined informal economy without touching the corrupt. Currently, the country is facing problems like inequality, exploitation of 84 crore people earning Rs 20 a day, unemployment in the informal sector and farming. The corrupt are having a great time.  Over 100 people have died due to demonetization and this government lacks concern for the people.

The fact is that they (the government) had given out lot of money to their cronies like Vijay Mallya, who left the country leaving the banks cashless or with little money. The government has compelled people who had kept desperate savings under their bed, to deposit in banks with no cash in their hand. The poor have become poorer and rich become richer.

So the gap between the poor and the rich has got further widened…

Not only the gap has widened but the productivity also has come down. The number of start-up companies has come down. The GDP is likely to go down by three to four per cent. They are destroying economy to save their own skin.  The PM should say ‘sorry’.

Fifteen Opposition parties blocked the government in the winter session of Parliament. On Tuesday (December 27), the meeting called by the Congress leadership was attended by eight parties only. Cracks in Opposition are visible. Your comments….

The Opposition is divided. They are thinking of themselves. There was absolutely no reason for Rahul Gandhi to meet Mr Modi. When the entire Opposition was talking about demonetization, Mr Gandhi met Mr Modi to discuss farming issue. Is that the way you treat your allies in the opposition? It is totally insensitive in my view.  That is why he has been left with Mamata Banerjee and nobody else. But I do believe that sooner or later, Opposition will have to unite to save the country.  

Tuesday's meeting was a "tea party" like the one in 1998 which ultimately led to the downfall of the Vajpayee government. Your views…

Mr Modi is not Vajpayee. He has much less concern for the people than Mr Vajpayee. Let us hope that there are enough patriots who will come forward to give a better deal to the people.  

Don’t you think that it is time for Opposition parties to stand united and face the challenges?

The only way to deal with problems of our country is that all the opposition parties should get united and read out the riot act to the government. People of this country have lost faith in the government and Mr Modi considerably.

Is not this disunity a reflection of failure of the Opposition parties in highlighting the plight of ordinary citizens?

The duty of the Opposition is to talk of inequality, exploitation, unemployment and the price rise.  Also the total lack of concern of the government about what happens to the lives of people. The problem is that major opposition parties do not think of more than their immediate gains.  The sooner they go beyond their immediate gains, the better it is for them.

Mr Modi had stated that his government was fighting against the black money and corruption while announcing demonetization. Has the government succeeded in its mission?

Black money is still there. New notes are being found in raids by the Income Tax department officials or ED officials. We found that new notes have been printed illegally and fake currency is still available.

How, according to you, has been the year 2016 for the people and the economy?

This government has proved that it does not give a damn to the condition of people. It deals with so called corruption and fake money which is less than one per cent of total currency and takes away from people whatever cash they had kept for rainy days. The economy is in a bad shape. The government should create more jobs, bring equality and ensure that people feel safe and secure.

Doesn’t the language like anti-nationals for those who do not support demonetization or supporters of black money used by political leaders vitiate the political atmosphere?

The Prime Minister is hardly a person to talk about who is national or anti-national. The RSS can keep saying that everybody is anti-national except for themselves. People who believe in Hindutva and not in secular India are definitely anti-nationals because they don’t believe in Indian Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t say it is Hindu Rashtra.

Do you think that attempts are being made to vitiate atmosphere in the country on religious/caste lines? What is the way out?

Yes. Attempts are being made to divide people. The only way out is that 84 crore people who are living on daily earning of Rs 20 should put up a united fight for their survival .

Assembly elections in States like UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab are due in 2017. What are your predictions?

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is not going to win unless these parties (non-BJP) play the games that they are playing  now and segment  themselves.  In Punjab, Akalis are going to have the worst time and the BJP is only in the cities. So the Congress can have a better deal. In Uttarakhand, the Congress has a chance to return to power provided it is able to keep its house in order.

Do you foresee a grand alliance in UP on the lines of Bihar?

They kept the BJP out of power in Bihar. In UP, the BJP can definitely lose, if the Congress plays its card realistically and join hands with one of the two combines of SP or BSP. Real issues will be cash crunch due to demonetisation, price rise, hike in rail fare and increasing gap between the rich and the poor. So it is up to non-BJP parties as to how they fight the BJP and its allies. Out of desperation, they may have to join hands together.

Will mandir card work in UP again?

I don’t think anybody is interested in mandir issue at the moment. Money will be the poll issue and not mandir.  It is up to the opposition parties as to how they link the money issue with unemployment, inequality, land grabbing, farmers’ crisis and of course survival in the current situation.

Do you suspect that attempts will be made to polarize voters before Assembly elections?

Yes. But it is up to the opposition parties to counter it by joining hands and isolating communal forces which are hell bent to polarize voters on communal lines. If these parties find their petty interests more important, then the condition of people will become worse.

(Published on 02nd January 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 1)#