In conversation with

Subrata Bakshi
Member of Parliament and State President of Trinamool Congress

The Members of Trinamool Web Team had an hour long discussion with Member of Parliament and State President of Trinamool Congress Mr. Subrata Bakshi. Bakshi-da told the team about his journey to glory, being side-by-side Didi.

You have seen Mamata Banerjee closely in the political corridors, how do you recall the association with Ms. Mamata Banerjee during the initial days in politics?

The life of Mamata Banerjee needs no introduction; her work is immense and vast and her life is full of struggle. There are so many instances when we have seen her taking to street to raise her voice for issues in the interest of the masses. Among all of them the most significant movement which she initiated was the introduction of Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) in the state predominantly to bring transparency in the electoral process since the Communist Party of India had left no stone unturned to tarnish the image of democracy by spreading rampant violence during elections. This was the landmark day in the political history in the state as the CPI(M) from this day onwards started CPI(M) realized that the people are gradually starting appreciating Mamata Banerjee and her movements. In this struggle, we had to lost 13-party-activists who fell prey to the bullets of the police when they opened indiscriminate fire on them who were peacefully protesting.

As we say ‘shohid er rokto jabe na ko byartho’ (sacrifice of the martyrs always pays) true enough, the sacrifice of the 13-party-activists did played a great role in establishing the demand of 7.5 crore people who raised their voice in demand for the EPIC. The Election Commission and the India Government did accept the demand of EPIC and nearly 18-years have passed down the lane and today nearly 100-crore-people in India possess the EPIC. The EPIC came into force since 1984. Irony, the movement had started from Bengal yet they could not avail of their democratic rights. It was the misfortune of the people of Bengal who could cast their mandate at least across 22 to 23 booths a fare atmosphere by producing the EPIC and avail of the democratic rights and vote freely until last elections.

Inception of West Bengal Human Rights Commission, a feather in the cap of Ms.Mamata Banerjee. Please throw some light on the issue?

She had time and again raised many issues concerning the common man. In a way we can say she acted more like a thread and brought the masses close. People too ushered in full support and admiration for her. On November 6, 1995, Mamata Banerjee sat on ‘dharna’ to protest against the atrocities committed by the police during the CPI(M) regime accused of killing nearly 188-people by brutally beating them up in the lock up. Mamata Banerjee demanded financial and job security for the members of these 188-families. The agitation was on from November 6th till 23rd. The movement which took off on a state-level was heard in the political-corridors in New Delhi and it was with the intervention of the then Congress party that a consensus was reached. The West Bengal Human Rights Commission was set up in Bengal on December 1, 1995, a landmark contribution and all the credit goes to Mamata Banerjee. Still now those seeking justice can knock the doors of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. This was not just the end rather can be called the landmark incident as Mamata Banerjee found a place in the hearts of the masses and she on many instances did stand beside the masses in the struggle for existence.

The year 1998, inception of the Trinamool Congress was a landmark year indeed. Please take us through down the memory lane…

Mamata Banerjee had carried out many such movements in the interest of the people over the time period but simultaneously she was realizing that to take her movement ahead she needed a separate platform to raise her voice against the barbaric rule of the CPI(M) as her being with the Congress party was becoming a hindrance. It was this idea and need which gave birth to the Trinamool Congress on January 1, 1998. The time she chose was the end of 11th Lok Sabha and beginning of 12th Lok Sabha as a politician of her experience and stature understood that it was the right time to launch the party and feel the pulses of the electorates as people was in all admiration for her as they saw her work. On that day of inception of Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerjee sketched the logo of the party which signifies grass root (two saplings on the grass). She thought if the Election Commission approves the logo then she will achieve two goals, one the launch of her party and simultaneously taking the philosophy of the party and explain to the people her deep thought behind the logo, which was the message of secularism, ‘ek e brinte duti kusum, Hindu Musalman, ekjon tar noyonmoni onno ti tar pran’ (two buds on the tree, Hindu and Muslim. If one of them is the eye then the other is life). Election Commission did approve the logo but had also issued a stricture which read if the Trinamool Congress failed to get six-percentage of votes in the 12th Lok Sabha election then the pre-symbol will be cancelled. Trinamool Congress well passed the cut off percentage and the party was born.

This was a challenge for any political party as it was not an easy to go to people with a new party and ask for their valuable vote. On that day Mamata Banerjee made a conviction and went to people and said that if they elect her party in the elections, however, she maintained that even if they don’t she will bear no ill feeling or grievance against them but if they do then she will stand beside the people till her last breath. The people of this state did keep her trust and faith. That day the people of Kolkata(S) elected her and send her to Parliament. Since that day onwards the people of Kolkata(S) have always stood beside Mamata Banerjee and she too kept her promise and stood beside the people in all situations. If we closely give a glance at the graph we find Mamata Banerjee has gone through panchayat and assembly elections. Her struggle phase is unending and has faced strong opposition from her rivals but nothing could deter her from her during these 14-long-years from her conviction of standing beside the people. During these long years we have seen her struggle with CPI(M) and being manhandled but never did she run away from the field showing her back.

You were elected from Bishnupur, if you can share the experience with us?

In 2001, Assembly Elections, she decided to make me candidate from Bishnupur, Bankura District. Under the blessings of Mamata Banerjee Trinamool Congress along with Congress party contested the elections and Trinamool Congress won on 60-seats. This was also the beginning for me as a member in the Assembly and I with the aim to work for the interest of the common man under her able guidance came to Assembly. During these years, I have stood beside her in all her agitations and protests whether a dharna on the road to a rally at Assembly House. We travelled five-years successfully. Later in 2006, Assembly Elections, Mamata Banerjee introduced me to urban political scenario from the rural political scenario may be to induct me more with the party administration work. I followed her wishes as I knew that she was doing in the interest of people and party. That day Mamata Banerjee set a new equation, we won on 30-seats. The people of Bengal ushered-in full support in her.

Well, you have been with her in thick and thin over the years in her struggle. If asked to travel down memory lane, how do you feel?

I had the privilege of being witness to these eventful years which saw Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress reaching out to the masses through series of struggle and agitations. On various instances she was brutally beaten by the CPI(M) that even resulted into a life threat. Come what may, the people of Kolkata (S) never abstained from showing their admiration and faith in her rather they have stood beside her in all the election and made her victorious. She too kept her words and stood beside them in all circumstances. We have seen this coming true to core in 2006 with the Singur movement taking momentum and she taking the centre stage raising voice against forcibly taking land from the farmers. She decided to abandon everything and stand firm with the farmers. The gesture received wide appreciation across all parties, many of them may not have openly supported but have silently appreciated her movement. It is the result of this 26-day-long-days movement which has compelled the authority to bring an amendment in the Land Acquisition Act 1994. This followed Nandigram movement which needs no introduction for the people since it became the most talked about point in every household. During this phase, there was no one in the age-group between 4 to 84 years who was unaware of the barbaric developments in Nandigram. People felt that this lady who not only is an efficient politician but a person for who nothing is beyond humanity. In 2008, Panchayat Elections, the rural Bengal came in support of Mamata Banerjee and gave their mandate in favour Trinamool Congress.

Mamata Banerjee was trying to feel the pulse of the people and was thinking even bigger. After the 2008 Panchayat polls it was the 2009 election. During this one-long-year span she tried to understand the sentiments of the people in 41-constituencies as she could feel that common man was unhappy with the CPI(M) rule. ‘Paribartan’. Soon she called up all party workers and started working on the political equations sitting here in the party head quarters. With a political equation with the Indian National Congress and SUCI she decided to extend support to the Centre.

The people of this state were happy to see their leader take up the ministry of Union Railway Minister. This sent a positive message across Bengal as people started to think that the days of CPI(M) government was numbered. We have seen how efficiently she had run the ministry and people across the country were happy with the railways. It won’t be wrong to say the only Railways Minister who ran special exhibitory trains to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore; she made it a point to take this train to every corner of the country. Again we have seen her concern for the social cause like the Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when she flagged off the ‘Red Ribbon Express’ to spread awareness against AIDS. Similarly, she on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda decided to run special exhibitory trains depicting the life and teaching of Swamiji. This is a unique gesture as I can’t recall any per predecessors doing a similar thing.

When do you feel the atmosphere of change was actually stepping in Bengal and how did Ms. Mamata Banerjee look at the trend?

2011 Assembly Election were approaching and people in Bengal had a feeling that the day was not far away when the CPI(M) will be ousted in the state after 34-years of misrule. The challenge was immense and days were less, I personally feel that Mamata Banerjee was possibly the only political leader who campaigned across 187-political rallies within a short span of 27-days. Not even for a moment she got tired or fatigued, on the contrary, she met all with the same cordial gesture. During her speeches she did not make any rhetoric but maintained equilibrium by chiefly mentioning three-points. Promise to stand beside people till her last breath if they give her their valuable support which she transformed into reality during the revolution at Nandigram and Singur. She said that if the people of Bengal ushered-in their confidence in her then she assures them a terror-free Bengal which will have developments in all spheres including employment generation. People in the state found a person who promised them of good governance and voted for the change. The new government came into existence and naturally people wanted Mamata Banerjee to take over as the Chief Minister of West Bengal.

She offered her Kolkata (S) Lok Sabha seat to you, naturally this was an emotional issue for you. What was your immediate feeling when you heard the news?

Well, the immediate feeling, I felt emotional as the leader for whom I have greatest admiration and respect was offering me her seat. After becoming Chief Minister she was required to resign from Lok Sabha and under the constitution she was required to contest the Assembly polls within a stipulated time frame as only then she could be elected to Legislative Assembly. She was elected and offered me her Kolkata (S) Lok Sabha seat for which I am grateful to her as she showed immense faith in me. With her blessings I contested the elections and won with a huge margin of votes, I don’t think anybody have ever got such a huge vote-ratio in any by-polls. Though, I got the votes in person but actually the people were voting Mamata Banerjee as they have huge love and admiration for her and I was just representing my leader who has a huge stature both politically as well as a human being.

Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee as you see her?

Well, she has always stood for the interest of the people and fought till the end. I have seen her through thick and thin. After taking over as the Chief Minister of the state she has taken up various initiatives in order to develop a new Bengal. During her this short-span as the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has taken up many initiatives to spread development in the Jamgalmahal and Darjeeling. In fact, let me tell you that she is the first Chief Minister to have taken up the issues and work for the development of tourism in the Hills. The people in South Bengal are watching her policies relating to education. She is working day and night to bring the health sector on a proper platform as she is concerned over the poor health facilities meted out to the patients. Mamata Banerjee is taking keen interest in the developments in the rural sector. There are no spheres left which have not drawn her attention including industrialization.

You have been to Delhi before but this time it was different feeling as you were the Member of Parliament Lok Sabha. Please share your feelings and also how was it different from previous exposure to Delhi?

The feeling was different as I have travelled to the city so many times but this time I was at the Lok Sabha and I realized that once again the stature of Mamata Banerjee as parliament is a place where you have to face so many protocols and place your point of views. I resigned on December 19, 2011 and decided to take the oath of office later during lean period. Mamata Banerjee suggested me to take oath while the session was on as she told me that in Parliament House if you take oath while the session is on then you automatically get notices and acquaintance become easy. I did go as per her suggestion on December 21 and took the oath in Bengali. I realized what she told me was so true as immediately after taking the oath and returning to my chair I found all eyes were watching me as they were looking at me, actually not because I was a new entrant or Subrata Bakshi but for the simple reason that I had come on the seat which was chaired by Mamata Banerjee, naturally this filled me with pride and emotion. This was a feeling which I will cherish all through my life as I feel proud to think that she usher-in all her faith and confidence in me. I was surprised to see that even the non-political people (staff and workers) in the Parliament refer to me as “Mamataji ki seat se jit kar ayae hain” (he has come to Parliament on the seat that was chaired by Mamataji). I will not be able to express the feeling in word and believe me if I try I will not be able to control my emotions.