You started off as a Left-winger, now you are the acting convener of the biggest right-wing coalition in the country. What led to this transition?
Apart from being complex, politics is also competitive. Even today, my party’s relationship with other parties is good. In the present scenario, some people from the Third Front are with the UPA or the NDA. The Left has no base except in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. We have been with the NDA for years, so we are sticking with them.
You have criticised the BJP on issues like Gujjar reservation, anti-defection, Gujarat riots and the recent assembly elections. Critics say you were looking for an excuse to quit the NDA, so you were appointed convener.
As far as Gujarat is concerned, I condemn what happened. Our alliance with the BJP is only in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. In other states, we differ on local issues. Hence, I have to be critical. Political autonomy is important.
What about charges like bargaining for seats with the BJP which are made against you?
I have nothing to say.
At a time when leaders including Jayalalitha and Mayawati are joining the Left, why are you staying aloof?
First of all, a Third Front will never be created. For the simple reason that the Janata Dal was earlier the cementing force between all Third Front forces. Now that it has split, it is impossible. The Left is constantly negotiating with different political forces to create a Third Front, but the truth is that people like Mayawati can never contain themselves. It is against their nature to co-exist in a single front.
‘Even though the Left is constantly negotiating, a Third Front will never be created’
But being a socialist, why will you push the Hindutva agenda?
Hindutva is the BJP’s agenda. The NDA’s agenda is related to economic policies, reforms, governance and development.
Is your appointment a strategy to woo lower castes in an upper caste coalition?
I can weave together progressive upper castes, weaker sections of the society and secular forces.
You and George Fernandes are at loggerheads. Now that you are taking his role in the same coalition, how will you sort out your differences?
I have defeated George twice in elections. In the past years, all the accusations levelled against me by George were onesided. I have never responded. I will continue like that.
What about the differences on the Women’s Reservation Bill. Will you change your stand?
Grassroots people are not involved in the women’s reservation movement. It’s only a handful of women in Delhi who will be affected and benefitted. Hence, I will stick to my stand of quota within quota, because if it is a tool to empower, it has to include the weaker sections.
You spoke to Prajarajyam chief Chiranjeevi. What other parties do you plan to woo?
I wish to expand the base and cement the coalition. Apart from Chiranjeevi, I have also met Nava Telangana Party president T Devender Goud. Both of them have not made up their minds as yet. I have also invited INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala to join the coalition. There are more in the queue, like JD(S) chief Deve Gowda.