March 19, 2012
I think you become elite by being a good human being, for us our capital is our humanity – Transcript: Mamata Banerjee speaks to NDTV
NDTV: Mamata Banerjee is not just the news maker of the day, the news maker of the week, in many ways she is the news maker of the year. The Trinamool Congress’s chief and the Chief Minister of West Bengal makes sure that her voice is heard loud and clear in New Delhi and that the UPA government has to stand up and listen, her views are always expressed extremely bluntly. We talk to the West Bengal Chief Minister as to where do equations stand with the Congress today? Mamtadi thanks so much for talking to us. Are you satisfied with the fact that the Dinesh Trivedi issue has finally been settled; are you happy with the way it is settled?
Mamata Banerjee: I don’t think this is an issue to me. I didn’t come here for this issue. I just came here because nine months I did not get the time to meet my colleagues in Parliament, especially my old friends, so just to go down the memory lane. That’s why I felt I should meet the Honourable Speaker also because she is very fond of us. Whenever I came to Delhi, I did not get the time, so this time I said, ‘it’s okay for a day or two, let me go and meet the people.’ I have in fact decided that whenever the Parliament will be on, I shall come for a day or two, sit in the Parliament. I will be sitting along, and will take idli-dosa and all, dhokla, whatever you say. Even the aalo ka, kya kehte hain usko, bhonda, aalo bhonda and coffee and also meet the people, because India is a country, we have to meet each other sometimes and our friendship should be strong also and we should meet each other.
NDTV: You met the Prime Minister today. The Trinamool has been upset that the Congress has been showing a “big-brother attitude”, not respecting you as an equal ally. Do you think they are finally learning their lesson that they have to take Mamata Banerjee very seriously?
Mamata Banerjee: No, no Mamata Banerjee is not that serious. Mamata Banerjee is just a casual worker, just like a commoner. That is not the matter, it is not an ego matter. There must be some mechanism in our alliance politics, in our democracy. When a single largest party is not in power, there an alliance means that the regional parties must get their share and their proper respect also. I have respect for each and every regional party. Suppose UP, suppose Bihar, suppose Tamil Nadu everywhere, Maharashtra to Odisha to everywhere, they have their own compulsions, they have their own political problems, their own local issues. These things, I don’t think the Delhi people understand the local issues; that’s why sometimes the confusion comes. If there is a mechanism through which we can co-ordinate, we can supervise, we can raise our views and those views can be discussed, and those issues we can solve, these things can sort out all sorts of problems. That is why these problems, and nowadays there are so many medias, now if you say something, the portion of it is taken and they say “breaking news”. It’s distorted and blown up, so some problem also arises because of this. So I feel there should be some coordination.
NDTV: But do you feel the Congress has been arrogant in dealing with your party?
Mamata Banerjee: They are my number one alliance party, it would not look nice if I say anything. I have a good relation with Sonia ji, we never quarrel or anything and there is no problem there. It’s just that she is not well, so this time we could not disturb her. The Prime Minister is also a nice man, he is not political; he is a good man. But maybe there is some coordination gap, because when Rajiv ji was there, there was no problem in coordination, the middle men could not play a role. Now if I am saying something, it’s not just I am saying, it’s all the MPs of the parties that decide together. Whatever we have to discuss, we discuss amongst ourselves, we decide amongst ourselves and we say this is our collective policy. Now Congress party is also a big party, but in an alliance you sometimes have to trust the alliance also. Sometimes it doesn’t look nice, nice, I mean, it doesn’t give a correct message that if Mamta is not satisfied, satisfied means, we have some issues, what issues, why these problems, Congress party has its manifesto, regional parties have their manifesto. Now before coming here, we contested the election, then we had some people issues and this is a major issue. Like the FDI, the retail issue, like the privatisation issue, like the price hike issue, it is not that we are saying it today, you have seen our manifesto, there clear cut we mentioned that if these issues were highlighted, if somebody has a problem regarding these issues, then our party will take a stand for the people, because our party is a people’s party. But some issues are unnecessarily created, like the Lokpal. Like we are in favour of Lokpal, but when it was discussed earlier, they included suddenly the Lokayukta, if they don’t have the Lokayukta there is no problem, therefore this is unnecessarily a creation. Now in our federal system, you cannot, according to the Constitution, interfere unnecessarily in a state matter. Now there is a tendency in the Central government to bulldoze every decision of the state governments; that is why this is happening. Like this Lokpal issue, Lokayukta issue, NCTC also the same, NCTC is more than TADA and POTA. Why I am saying so is because I have seen the clause and paragraphs, it’s a serious issue. Number one they never consulted with the state government, now everybody appreciates that we want to work against the terrorists, that we appreciate, but if you have to work against the terrorists you have to work together. You tell me in your house, you stay with your family, if your family is peaceful, you are peaceful, you cannot stay peaceful without your family. Now if you want to combat terrorism, then you have to take into confidence your state government also, because state government is your pillar, they are the key icons of the state. Few states, they have the international borders, state borders, in India there is so much diversity in system, unity in diversity is our system, so therefore you cannot take for granted, whatever you do. Now what happened in NCTC, two three clauses I have seen. Number one, the Central government directly can lodge an FIR, arrest people and give directly anybody under the UAPA Act. UAPA is further dangerous you know. Number two, then they say they can requisite police anytime, that means the administration shall be breaking, it’s just like “breaking news”. It will be a sudden break for the administration, if somebody is doing some good work, I want to withdraw this officer, can you behave like this? I abstained from voting, because I am with the UPA 2. Our party decided that if we vote for this, after consultation they may implement it, then my vote shall be recorded there. Number two if I vote for it, it will go against us, against our spirit, against the federal spirit and if I vote against the Government, it won’t look nice as we are with the Government. That’s why I abstained, and again I am telling you, unnecessarily they have included our Honourable President’s salary.
NDTV: Why do you think the Congress does these mistakes?
Mamata Banerjee: I don’t know if these are mistakes or whatever. See when I met the Prime Minister earlier, on the 22nd of Feb, regarding this issue, (I said) ‘Sir you please don’t do it without the consultation of the states. If they don’t agree you please don’t do it.’ Not only me, the PM’s office sent this press release in Media that, without the states being consulted it would not be done. After that unnecessarily to create a confusion why have they included it? We respect her, it is an honourable Constitutional position, that is why we abstain from vote. We feel hurt, it’s not that we are doing it deliberately. These are issues from the beginning, therefore we cannot compromise, Congress has its own issues, if they cannot compromise on their issues, how can we compromise on our issues?
NDTV: So they can compromise on NCTC in their present form, is that clear Mamata didi?
Mamata Banerjee: I think, Lokpal yes, you bring it, we won’t mind. Lokayukta it’s a state matter, you please leave it for the state, whether is a Congress state or a BJP state, I don’t mind. Every state needs that the Centre does not interfere in its law and order business, it’s a law and order business, leave it for the state.
NDTV: Now railway hikes, it has been another issue, your party says it is against the DNA of our party. Are you ready for a partial role back, where the upper class fare hike is permitted and not the lower class fare hike?
Mamta Banerjee: No, no I am telling you one thing that when this issue is pending with Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, it is the prerogative of the House or the Ministers to take a decision on it. I am not going to interfere in this business. But what I said earlier, that look before this budget was announced, 20% freight possibly was already hiked, they have already earned 20,000 crore Rupees from the freight hike. So it was not necessary at this point to increase the freight rate and fare hike together. Now we have to appreciate, they said 2 paisa, 4 paisa, may be somebody misguided, you see in railways, 1km does not matter. It is 100km, 1000km, 4000km, that’s the route matter. In Indian Railways, more number of people used to travel through the suburban railways, urban railways, the local railways, now all office goers, it may be in Mumbai, it may be in Delhi, it may be in Bangalore, everywhere, the maximum earnings come from the suburban areas. Now you will appreciate, some people are government employees, some are private employees, some are very poor, now everyday they come and go, now if you say two paisa, it’s not two paisa. If you are travelling from Howrah to Bardwan its only 100km, suppose from Delhi to Ghaziabad, if you calculate 2 paisa every day means 4 Rupees, then monthly it will be 120 Rupees. Now the daily passenger will be suffering for it, they will be affected, their income is not getting increased. And the beauty of the Indian Railways is the sleeper class, is the beauty for the commoner to travel. It’s not the Rajdhani sleeper, I am telling about the second class sleeper, the third tier sleeper, who cannot afford, the Rajdhani 1st class and 2nd class, you have to leave one for them at least. Now there also 100-150 Rupees have been increased on one ticket, so these two or three areas I think we should look into the matter.
NDTV: Were you disappointed that the Prime Minister praised the budget, the Railway Budget?
Mamata Banerjee: This is customary for the Prime Minister to praise every budget because Prime Minister is leading, so it is customary for him to praise, I am not upset for that.
NDTV: You felt that Dinesh Trivedi did not consult the party before he announced the Rail Budget, will he be allowed to stay on in the party?
Mamata Banerjee: I have no comments on that, may be some mis-communication, some people play a foul role too. But he is with us and he was present in the meeting today too, and he said that he wants to continue with the party.
NDTV: Whom do you think played a foul role, you said some people did?
Mamata Banerjee: I don’t know. Our party, I can tell you, is very transparent, we believe in our credentials, our credentials are our only credibility, we are not going to compromise on that, we are the commoners. Some people from Delhi can speak good English, we can’t speak good English, I am telling you a reality. Reality bites sometimes, we come from middle classes, we have not studied in the English medium schools, we come from our regional languages schools. So if I can’t speak English, I am the middle class, whatever it can be, you can blame the middle class like anything. I have seen in my life, I have struggled so much. I did not get support from anyone. When I was the Rail Minister, stories were planted every day that I am not taking care of the Ministry, now the development, what do you see today, it is not now that it has happened. You cannot say that if I cannot speak good English you can bulldoze me everyday. I know some people are trying, they can speak good English and therefore they think, it’s only the elite class to be here. I don’t think you become elite by speaking good English, I think you become elite by being a good human being, for us our capital is our humanity.
NDTV: Do you think it’s the Congress party?
Mamata Banerjee: I am not naming anybody, any party, ishara hee kaafi hai.
NDTV: Some people say “Mamata Banerjee wants an early election, Mamata Banerjee wants a third front”?
Mamata Banerjee: Arre Mamata Banerjee ke khilaaf mein kyun, dekho jo aadmi politically nahi fight kar sakta hai na, usko allergy hota hai. Mamata Banerjee is may be their allergy, but Mamata Banerjee is also the energy of the people. Whatever is the truth you have to speak out,yeh toh hota he hai, critic toh rehta he hai, critic ko bolne do, woh toh acha he hai.
NDTV: Will you continue to support the Government or is the question open?
Mamata Banerjee: Nahi, nahi aisa kuch nahi hai, jab hum vada kiya hai, I want to continue, with respect, aapko izzat bhi dena hai.
NDTV: Izzat kya abhi tak mili hai?
NDTV: Dekho problem toh ho raha hai, isi liye hum chahte hai ke koi mechanism ho jisse problem solve ho jaye, because we never created any problem, we are not like other parties, we are coming from a struggle, we are coming from the grass roots. We were not born with a golden spoon, our fathers were not in politics, so we were not born as politicians, so our struggle is our history. That’s why I am telling you we never ask for a monitory gain or a nominated seat in the Rajya Sabha, we never ask, give me this commission member or a Governor, nothing. In the Parliament, after three years, I am telling you, there is no single room in the Parliament where we can sit, all political parties, they have, but we have nothing.
NDTV: So do you feel bad, you feel hurt?
Mamata Banerjee: I feel bad, but we sit in the Central Hall, we feel proud in the Central Hall only, I don’t mind that, but why then these issues are coming. Sometimes they say they are blackmailing, why do big parties always say that? If I raise issues for people, do you think this is blackmailing? Retail management issue is my management issue, I have to fight it out, this is not blackmailing or bargaining, it’s not a political issue, it’s a people’s issue, it’s not a Trinamool Congress issue.
NDTV: Mamata didi aapne kaha izzat ke saath rehna chaheye, have you got that izzat, have you got that respect?
Mamata Banerjee: Nahi gaali zada milta hai, jab koi issue raise karo toh yeh blackmail ka baat karta hai. I am telling the channels also, sometimes you people feed news, jaisa yeh yeh bol do uska khilaaf mein, that is also very wrong. When I was the Rail Minister, you people had nothing to say, toh bolta tha, ke woh toh Bengal mein pada rehta hai, what is this? They never ask these questions to other people, why always us. If I had an issue, now today you see Tamil Nadu, they have now agreed for the Sri Lanka issue, why dd they not agree earlier? You see when you decide something with Bangladesh, Bengal must be consulted, because Bengal knows Bangla like nobody else.
NDTV: If the Congress doesn’t give you the “izzat” which is due to your party, then what then, what will you do?
Mamata Banerjee: Dekho humara izzat toh public se ho jata hai, I believe that Maa, Maati, Maanush. Mujhe yeh vishwas hai ke aam janata jab galat samjhenge tab mujhe kursi mein rehne ki koi zarurat nahi. Till public has trust in me I will continue to do my politics, commoner is my pulse, I am not a minister or a superstar or anything else. I just want to continue as a commoner as a human being. Respect matlab kya hai, jo issue aapka hai, humara hai, hum manifesto ko kaise compromise karenge, yeh toh nahi hai ke maine aaj bola, you come to Bengal and see our manifesto. Whatever we had committed to the people, 99% of the work in these 9 months is over.
NDTV: Can I ask you in conclusion what has been your biggest problem or challenge in the past few months, what do you most worry about, what do you feel most concerned about?
Mamata Banerjee: My problem is I tried to help this government like anything, the UPA 2. I did not want any quarrel, but the minus is that I am misunderstood or sometimes, I have got humiliations from some quarters, they only blame us. I feel hurt, the Bengali people voted me, that we some people put an economic blockade in Bengal, I don’t like it, we feel hurt.
NDTV: How do you deal with that hurt?
Mamata Banerjee: We are beggars, I believe. We have to keep our head held high. I believe Kavi Rabindranath Tagore, “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”. Our head is held very high, we are not beggars. We have a great legacy of a 35 year struggle to our credit. It’s because of the Left’s economic brain child that we are facing an economic crisis in Bengal. And please tell your friends also, after 35 years there was a change, more than 2 lakhs, 34 thousand crore was the debt they left. What is my treasury position if my entire income, including all tax, is 21 thousand crore, the Central government directly if is taking away 22 thousand crores , why didn’t they do it earlier? What is my fault? I am not a beggar, we are also a state, many states have problems. Now you tell me if I go in for debt repayment, 21 is my income 22 you are taking away, where will the money come from for BPL card, drinking water, for health? If I ask for a three years moratorium is it bad? Am I asking money for Bengal? No I am not. 1 thousand crore directly they are taking away instead of giving money, Why they have not started the FRBM earlier, you tell me, 2005 all states started, why did they not start it here? Now FRBM I am maintaining, I am maintaining all the discipline, and they are taking all the money. I am not even asking for money, I am asking for moratorium. I am saying I can’t repay money, It’s not my fault. If mischief was happening then why didn’t you take care that time, you were also the parent organisation?
NDTV: You told Pranab Mukherjee?
Mamata Banerjee: I don’t want to say anything anymore. I told him 20 times, PM also I told 10 times, how many times do you want me to say it? And if you distrust you just say we don’t like you, go out.
NDTV: I don’t think they can afford to say that to you Mamata Banerjee. Thank you so much Mamata Banerjee.
NDTV: Thank you Barkha, come to Kolkata.