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HVK Archives: 'We wanted Moopanar to become P M, but he refused'

'We wanted Moopanar to become P M, but he refused' - The Indian Express

Harish Gupta ()
2 February 1997

Title : 'We wanted Moopanar to become P M, but he refused'
Author : Harish Gupta
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 2, 1997

He is an acknowledged king maker. Harkishan Singh Surjeet has been
playing this part in his own discreet fashion. He even claims that
he played a key role in the appointment of Morarji Desai as Prime
Minister in 1977.

Singh has been associated with the Left movement since 1933. The
CPM itself may have often faced sharp differences between its
Kerala and West Bengal factions, but Singh himself has emerged
unscathed. In fact, he has grown in influence and stature over the
years. Today, he is the general secretary of the CPM and commands
considerable respect among fellow politicians, cutting across party
lines, with the exception of the BJP which views him as a
"conspirator". HARISH GUPTA met him for a rare interview.

You have been associated with the Left movement for the last 64
years. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved ?

It will not be correct to say that I am satisfied. The movement
remained confined as an effective force to a few states. The
reasons for this are many and 1 don't want to go into them. We have
committed mistakes in the past. Had we satisfied our aims, the
picture would have been different in the country today. We are
still experimenting. We tried three non-Congress governments at the
Centre and view this as another experiment.

But are the Gowda government's policies any different from those of
the Rao Congress?

Not much. But you should remember that this government came into
existence to keep the BJP out. There was no UF before the

But can you provide one example of the UF adopting a different

There is a difference - at least, on record, there is a difference.
And remember, we often openly oppose the government. It is not a
one party rule, it is the rule of a combination of parties. Now we
are trying to discover what is common among us and try and
implement it. We have got certain issues of great importance
included in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). The CMP is a
weapon. Remember, the Front came into being after the elections so
it is not an electoral ploy.

But now that the Congress is minus Rao, would you view the party

No. Rao got discredited and got isolated because of corruption.
The Congress has not come forward with a clearly demarcated
economic policy and Manmohan Singh remains its spokesman. Our
opposition to the Congress remains. In the States where we are
strong, we are confronted by the Congress. There's no question of
collaborating with the Congress unless radical changes take place.

So you rind no difference between Congress under Rao and Congress
under Kesri except corruption?

I am not saying that. There is a difference. But its rhetoric must
be translated into action. For instance, its sympathies for the
Backwards and the minorities. It must also change its economic

You mean to say that the Congress has changed only its face and not
its policies?

I am saying... Try to appreciate my position. Let us see how
things move. Anyway, if the Congress doesn't change, the party
cannot be kept united.

Are you trying to evolve a workable arrangement between Kesri and

That is a complete distortion of my position. No doubt I have good
friends in Congress, including Kesri. I have been interacting with
them. But at the same time, you must understand my limitations.
The Congress decided to support the UF to keep the BJP out. There
is no change in the situation. Once it changes, we will see. And
except corruption, there is no other issue on which the Congress
has taken a position. So the talk of its support being withdrawn
is all childish. Similarly, I don't like UF partners issuing
statements that they are going to last. Everything depends on its
performance. That is why I said the budget may be the prerogative
of the PM and FM, but we have the right to give the direction.

Who was more responsive to your ideas - Rao or Kesri?

Kesri, no doubt. He is for the poor and keeps the interests of
minorities in mind. Kesri would not have done to the Babri Masjid
what Rao did. That difference is there. But it should also be
translated into policies.

So you feel he hasn't worked towards giving these ideals a
practical dimension?

Yes. But I don't want to exaggerate - he could not have done
miracles in these two months. But now that the crisis within the
party is over and Narasimha Rao has been isolated, he must attend
to policy-making.

There are allegations that the Prime Minister is interfering with
the internal affairs of Congress and even getting false cases
registered against Kesri...

This is all immaturity and gossip. Politicians should not be
carried away by it. Somebody tells Kesri something and he will
react. And I have seen the PMO reacting to something else. I call
this political immaturity. Politicians should discuss matters
directly with each other.

What is the formula?
I suggest more cordial relations between Deve Gowda and Kesri.

But in the last few months, this has not happened.

That will happen. It was happening when Rao was at the helm of
affairs in the Congress.

Compared to your predecessors, as a Genera) Secretary you seem to
be most active in the affairs of other political parties.

Coming from the national movement and having worked in various
capacities within my party this should not be surprising. For
years I had been doing the same things which I am doing now. In
1977, I took the initiative when Morarji Desai contacted Jyoti Basu
in London on the issue of prime ministership. Basu told Desai that
he should get in touch with Surjeet. Basu told him that Surjeet
alone can solve his problem. I was also responsible for bringing
the V.P. Singh government to power.

There is a report that you took a list of seven persons to Rao and
he picked Deve Gowda.

I will never do such things. In fact, I did not meet him before the
election of the Front leader.

No, I believe, when V.P. Singh refused and Jyoti Basu also

I never met him then except at some function or other.

But you were instrumental in installing Deve Gowda as Prime

The reality of the situation was that when our Central Committee
refused to agree on Jyoti Basu unanimously, it was I who suggested
the name of Mr G.K. Moopanar.

You suggested the name of Moopanar for the post of PM?

Yes. It was I who first proposed the name of Moopanar. I said he
is the best man for the job.

What happened next?

Moopanar refused. After that I suggested Deve Gowda's name. It
was agreed to by every one and we went to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

So Rao was nowhere in the picture ?

No, not at all.

Then why does Deve Gowda rush to Rao, every time a court verdict
that is adverse to him comes?

I don't to want to comment on that.

No. But as a member of Steering Committee you.....

You see ... when Rao was president of the Congress and CPP leader,
Deve Gowda was doing this.

No but why does Deve Gowda rush to a corrupt man? After all it was
not Rao but the entire CWC that had supported the UF.

You see, it was Rao who had to give the letter of support to the
President. Despite the corruption charges against him, he had to
say that he supported the name. Things had to go from his pen to
the President of India.

So you see nothing wrong with Gowda's visits to Rao?

All I am saying is that at that time he had to deal with him. I am
not talking about the present situation.

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