In conversation with

Sovandeb Chattopadhyay
Hon’ble Chief Whip

The members of the AITMC Web Team spent some time with Mr. Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Hon’ble Chief Whip and had an informal chat. Hon’ble Chief Whip spoke on various issues including developmental processes taking place in West Bengal.

How do you see your association with Ms. Mamata Banerjee, if you can take us down memory lane…

I have been with Mamata Banerjee since 1988, quite a long time and during these long-years I have seen many perspectives of Mamata Banerjee on personal as well as political front. I recall her as a girl from my neighborhood who always showed the leadership quality. During these years I have watched how she maintains her calm during any crisis. There were instances when she was down and depressed, I have seen her through ups and downs, happiness and sorrow, even as Union Minister and taking charge of important offices. Honestly speaking I saw a different Mamata Banerjee after becoming the Chief Minister of the state as I was seeing her in the shoes of an administrator. This was a new Mamata Banerjee to me. I have never seen any Chief Minister in my life working in this module or design. Her every move was in the interest of the people. I sincerely appreciate the way she is managing the state.

What is that one-thing according to you which can be termed as ‘landmark’ decision that proved beneficiary while meeting deadlines?

Well, as I said the entire work structure is fresh and commendable. If you ask me ‘landmark’ then I will undoubtedly refer to the stricture she gave to her Ministers “perform or leave”. I have not seen any Chief Minister ever dared to pronounce this, leave aside implementation. Mamata Banerjee could say this and that too at-ease simply because she is aware of the problems knows problems since she happens to emerge among the masses. However, going back to the topic, hence I feel is the reason the government was able to meet the commitments made in our manifesto.

Talking of your association with Ms. Mamata Banerjee, in your own words, you are seeing a new person as Chief Minister. Would you like to elaborate?

As I said she is a perfect administrator and in spite of her busy schedule keeps an eye on everything that takes place in the state which may or may not come under her preview. She is concerned about everything from rural development to tourism to health sector and even cultural front. She maintains a contact with all her ministers and inspires them to work for the betterment of the state. She has even set an example by reaching out to the people across districts and convening meeting with the district administration. There are many problems but she is trying to resolve them. I am running 50-long-years in active politics. I came into politics in 1962 and it is 2012, I have no hesitation in accepting that during these years I have not come across any Chief Minister who works on such a module. I am not demining the stature of Dr. Bidhan Roy or Siddhartha Shankar Roy but the approach is entirely different. Not even for a moment she forgets that it is the people who have chosen us to power and her foremost concern is masses. There is a crunch of funds yet she is trying to resolve the financial crisis.

Coming back to the manifesto, how would you judge the working of the government?

There are various problems and as you know limited recourses, we received an empty coffer. The basic requirements are – to generate employment, health sector, filling up vacant posts in government offices and ensure food for the poor etc. However, apart from these there were two-big-issue in the state – Jamgalmahal and Hills. As you are aware that Mamata Banerjee after taking over as the Chief Minister took initiatives and carried out dialogues with the separatists. This was again not an easy preposition but she made the impossible possible. The problem was grave and no Chief Minister cloud resolve the Maoist problem but here was Bengal Chief Minister who changed the entire CMU within two-months in office. This is a great achievement especially when the Union Home Minister said emergence of Maoist factions across the country is the biggest threat. There has been a subsequent downfall in the death toll. Similarly, the problem in Hills existed since long. Mamata Banerjee was able to bring different faction to a negotiation table. In fact, success has been achieved, only a few obligations are left which will be undertaken by the committee that has been set up to look into the issue. The Union Government has already signed the documents. I repeat both these are big feather in the cap of the Chief Minister.

When it comes to functioning of Trinamool Congress Party, how do you see Ms. Mamata Banerjee as a Chairperson?

Well, there is a constant equilibrium between the two. Both governance and party are equally important to her. She has made it clear that in no circumstances the working in and within the party can be put at stake rather both demands an equal importance. She herself takes equal interest in the functioning of the party as she used to take earlier. Well, I would like to add a personal experience here. I am a political student of Dr. Debraj Chattapadhyay who believed in “party-people-government-partnership” philosophy. If this philosophy can be practically followed then the communication between the government and people gets simplified, the party plays a bridge between the both. Honestly. I can see a practical depiction of this philosophy in Mamata Banerjee who sincerely believes in the participation of the masses and I believe that with this honest intention we will be able to walk ahead and make Bengal a better place.

On an average people in Rashbihari usher-in huge admiration for you, they have feeling that comes what may they can communicate easily with you…

I am grateful to people of Rashbihari for ushering in confidence and extending cooperation to me for so many years. Actually, I feel that politician should be honest, simple and above all the quality to communicate with all ages. This reminds me of an interesting incident which I want to share with you all. There was a gentleman by the name of Barin Chatterjee who had served jail term with my father during struggle for independence, my father did not contest elections but this gentleman did contest as an independent candidate having preference for the Left Front. I used to watch him talking to everybody with a smile and full of warmth. I once asked him the reason and he told me that it was not possible on his part to make everybody satisfied but it hardly takes anything to greet cordially and smile back. This was inspiring to me and later on I have tried to incorporate this in me, today when I meet people I try to be cordial. I also feel that we should and expect only that much what we practice ourselves. Let me share with you an incident which took place today itself, somebody was asking me why I did not object to receiving of mobile phone since it is not permissible at the Assembly House. I told him even I sometimes receive calls, how do I stop people from doing something for which I too am equally guilty. I am a MLA since 1991, and with all conviction I can tell you that I have never associated myself with any promoter or realtor syndicate. I feel this is also a reason why people like me since they know I have a clean image.

Last but not the least, I have seen these qualities in Mamata Banerjee who could have lived a luxurious life after becoming the Railways Minister but she preferred to live a simple life. She deserves all the respects.

How do you see yourself as the Chief Whip, any regrets for not being able to make it to Writers’ Building?

Honestly, I enjoy my position, I have no regrets for not being able to sit at the Writers’ Building and working at the Assembly House. I am not a minister but I am enjoying the status of a minister. I am really enjoying my work. Today itself I was scribbling down on a paper and explaining some of the members how to take part in zero hour, mention a motion or how to participate in budget session etc. the crux is at the end of day I am enjoying my work. You know it gives an immense satisfaction when you enjoy your work.

Your message to the people.

I would like to say that keep faith upon Mamata Banerjee as she is sincerely taking positive initiatives to take the state ahead. There are many problems and I am confident that she will resolve all the issues and make Bengal proud.