April 26, 2014
‘If Modi ji is confident about winning, why is he contesting from two seats’ – The Mamata Banerjee Interview
In a TV interview, Trinamool Congress Chairperson Ms. Mamata Banerjee today spoke at length about the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections and how she is campaigning for the party. She talked mainly about the development initiatives by the West Bengal Government. She also spoke about the future role Trinamool will play at the Centre. She also explained why the Bengal model was better than the Gujarat model. The malicious campaigns of the Left atrocities also featured in her speech.
Question: There will be a four-cornered fight this time in the Lok Sabha elections. You have been in power for three years. What will be your main plank for campaign?
Didi: We will complete 3 years in power on May 20. Out of these three years, about six months we could not work because of the model code of conduct due to various elections. I have never seen such a lengthy Lok Sabha election, over two months. Some big states like Tamil Nadu or Gujarat have polls in one day whereas in our State some districts have two-phase poll. We want free and fair polls and we will cooperate with Election Commission for that.
A lot of malicious campaign is going on. Some sections of the media are circulating `super paid news`. A lot of money power is being used. For fulfilling their political agenda, some parties are spreading false news. But truth will prevail over the unholy nexus of CPI(M)-Congress-BJP. People are our assets. They will give a fitting reply to all such malicious campaigns.
People will vote for us for the development work we have done in the last two and a half years. We have been deprived of Rs 87,285 crore. We are paying for the debts incurred by the Left regime. If we had the money, we could have spent it on drinking water, roads, bridges and many other initiatives. The Centre has deprived us of the compensation for CST (worth Rs 3783 crore). They have not released the State share on account of the devolution of taxes worth Rs 2500 crore. They have not released funds for JNNURM and Rs 1400 crore for 100-Days work is still pending.
Despite the financial crisis, our economic performance is great. Bengal is a model, not Gujarat. Despite the debt and funds crunch, our GSDP growth is 7.79% while the national average is 4.49%. People of Bengal, as well as India, do not support riots. After the 2001 earthquake, Centre gave funds to Gujarat. Bengal has been neglected. Gujarat has 19 ports. We have only 2. Even dredging is not allowed in our ports.
Let me give another example. Growth in revenue collection in Gujarat is 15.77%. In Bengal it is double � 31.5%. When we came to power the revenue collection was Rs 21000 crore. Now it is Rs 40000 crore. We have initiated economic reforms and e-governance initiatives. We have not burdened people with taxes. We have also started Administrative Calendar and Right to Serives Act.
Infant mortality rate in Gujarat is 42 per 100 children. The national average is 46 while in Bengal the figure is 31. Maternal mortality rate in Bengal is 145 and that of Gujarat is 148. We have started Kanyashree for girls. We provide drinking water to 92% households while in Gujarat the coverage is only 90%.
Some people only beat their trumpets, but our actions speak for us. Congress and CPM only engage in malicious campaigns. We take swift actions. We have started 80 fast-track courts , 19 human rights courts. We have set up 5 new commissionarates. We have recruited 1.3 lakh civic police volunteers and 40000 new constables.
Question. Why do you think you are being criticised so much despite all the developmental work?
Didi: There is a saying “hum agar charcha bhi karte hai toh ho jate hain badnaam, woh agar katal bhi kar de toh charcha nahi hota”. I always welcome positive criticism. I was not born with a golden spoon. People target me because of my humble background. We raised the slogan bodla noy, bodol chai. 55000 people lost their lives due to violence during the Left rule. Political killings have stopped now. During the Left rule, there was no freedom of speech. Now the Opposition can criticise us so much because we have ensured they enjoy their freedom of speech.
We left the Congress-led UPA because of FDI in retail and insurance, privatisation of pension funds and several other issues. Unorganised sector would be hit most by these decisions. Every industry has many ancillaries; we cannot hurt them. We gave the Centre time to rethink, they did not. Our manifesto is sacred for us. We cannot go back on our promises. They unilaterally hiked the prices of cooking gas from Rs 450 to Rs 900 at one go. Government`s work is to ensure social security. They removed subsidies on fertilisers. Prices of everything are rising.
Many times our dissent was not taken seriously by the Centre because I was only minister from our party in the Union Cabinet. We were not even given any room in Parliament. We have worked for Bengal with full dedication despite all insults and never cared for our needs.
The Centre should not interfere in the business of the States. The Centre gets its revenue from what the States collect and then they refuse to give us funds as if they are giving alms. We do not want funds from Centre. If they stop taking away our revenue, we can do a lot of work with the money.
We have worked hard against all odds in the last three years. We have distributed land pattas to 2 lakh people. We have also distributed 28 lakh Kisan credit cards to farmers. 9 lakh girls have already received the benefits of Kanyashree. We have started the Yuvashree scheme for one lakh unemployed youth.
There were only 38 government colleges in 66 years. We have set up 31 government colleges and 14 private colleges in two and a half years. The Left set up only one university in 34 years. We have started 8 new universities in two and a half years.
Nazrul Islam, who is the National Poet in Bangladesh, was neglected by the Left. We have named a university and an airport after him. We also started the Nazrul Academy. We have also started the Panchanan Barma university in Coochbehar, a women`s university at Diamond Harbour and a university at Bankura for the talented students of that district. We have brought Bills to allow private universities.
Earlier there were only 1300 medical seats in Bengal. We have raised that to 2700 seats in two and half years. Four new medical colleges are coming up. There were only 6 SNSUs during Left regime. We have started 36 new ones. There were no SNCUs, we have set up more than 200. We are building multi super speciality hospitals across the State. We have built 7 medical districts. Every sub-division hospital will have a trauma care unit.
We have started more than 50 fair price medicine shops that offer medicines at 60% discount. Fair price diagnostic centres have also started at few places. We are giving free medicines to the rural poor. We have also started the facility of transport for pregnant women and children.
We have distributed 57 lakh scholarships to minority students. We have started reservation for minorities under OBC quota. We have not touched the General category seats for this. Instead, we have increased infrastructure by 45% for a cost of Rs 1000 crore.
We fulfil our promises. We have carried out work according to our manifesto. 3.2 crore people in the State get rice at Rs 2 per kilo. Others are promising food security now. We have implemented it. My aim of life is to serve people.
Opposition has no scope of criticising our work. Hence they are using muscle and money power. But they cannot intimidate us.
Question: Do you think Gujarat Model can be implemented across the country?
Didi: There is nothing called Gujarat model. Some people are born in rich families while some are born in poverty. Everyone has their own capacity. It varies from State to State. What Tamil Nadui or Maharashtra can afford, we cannot afford that. Bengal is the cultural capital of the world. People are envious of our rich culture. Even a few people in Bengal are jealous of our work. The same media houses which created Brand Buddha are creating Modi wave now.
Question: The UPA has set a new record in corruption…
CPI(M) stands for destruction. They have engaged in money laundering. They are vindictive. For the Congress, politics is all about blackmail and they believe in dynastic politics. They have so many scams to their credit – 2G scam, coal scam, so many… I feel ashamed I was once a Congress member.
BJP`s face is the face of riots. I abhor politics of religion. Where are they during Gangasagar mela, Durga Puja, Kali Puja or Holi? They can only be seen during elections; they talk of religious politics. People do not support politics of riots.
There is nothing like PM candidate. After elections, the MPs decide the Prime Minister. If Modi ji is so confident about winning why is he fighting from two states? If I were contesting for Lok Sabha, I would have fought from Bengal. Similarly, Gujarat is his State and he should have fought from there only. Why did he choose another place? Politicians need transparency, credibility and accountability.
Some channels are highlighting small issues to defame us. They talk about political dadagiri. Our hoardings and flags are being removed. But in other states like Rajasthan, Odisha and Tripura all political banners are being allowed! Action is being taken only against poor parties like us. How will we campaign then?
People love me. People won`t tolerate insults to the party. Channels are doing dadagiri. They show one-sided news. We do not own any media houses. They are damaging our reputation to build the image of other parties. They tried the same trick in Panchayat election.
Ma, Mati, Manush is my present, past and future. I will work for the people till my last breath. I have no personal motives.
State-funding of elections is my next agenda. Poor parties like us have no money to fund elections. Several countries like US, Australia, Denmark have state-funded elections. Why not India? So many cases are pending in courts. But a few PILs are being highlighted. We need judicial reforms. We respect everyone and hope to get the same respect in return.
Just because we do not have money power, some media houses are creating news to influence people against us. Some channels are carrying out panel discussions on a sub-judice case. This is influencing the judiciary. This is like derailing of law. Lies cannot become the law.
Question: Some people say there will be a new record set this time in terms of the number of FIRs and complaints to EC
Didi: The Opposition has no other work. They have set up a team to spread lies. I have only two people managing my Facebook page while some people are spending crores to carry on their campaign. This is a sponsored campaign against us. The parties who have won elections till date by rigging are now feeling nervous.
The Marxists have now become manipulators. They are not even campaigning on the ground. All they do is complain against us. But people are intelligent. They can see through their lies. The cultural world is blooming. People are tired of the political debates on TV.
The Opposition can keep making accusations but we will carry on with the development. Let me give you an example. For the Jal Dharo Jal Bharo project, we set the target of creating 50000 ponds in 5 years. In two and half years we have created more than one lakh ponds.
We are honouring the best in Bengal with awards like Banga Bibhushan, Sangeet Samman, Jatra Samman, Khel Ratna, Tele Samman awards and many more. I feel blessed for being able to honour such talents.
I have encountered paid news during Singur movement. In one of his books, Swami Vivekananda wrote that in his own country he was criticized the most while he was honoured abroad. The same is true for me.
Question: Several Opinion Polls conducted across channels have predicted that Trinamool will emerge as the 3rd largest party. What will be your role at the Centre?
Didi: Whether we will emerge as the third largest party, is up to people to decide. I am sure we will get people`s support. Whenever we have supported a Government at Centre we have talked about the interests of the people. Our agenda is to get Bengal`s honour back. The neglect by Centre will not be tolerated. Not just Bengal, we will talk about the right of all other States. We must empower the States.
Whether or not a State should be divided, must be decided by the State Assmebly. Centre cannot unilaterally make such decisions. BJP has come here to carry out another partition of Bengal. Darjeeling is an integral part of Bengal. We cannot allow the Hills to be separated. We have set up the GTA. We cannot allow another partition. Some people are trying to incite violence in Hills. We want peace and progress. We will continue the development.
Look at our performance. In MSME sector, we registered a growth of 105% in terms of investments. A new coal mine is coming up in Birbhum. SAIL is investing Rs 20000 crore in the State; even DVC is investing Rs 10000 crore in Bengal. A lot of industries are coming up. As Railway Minister I have started a dedicated freight corridor for the State. We cleared the land problem for NTPC unit coming up at Katwa. We are setting up 500 marketing hubs. At least 5 lakh people will get jobs. Even the number of mandays lost in Bengal has come down to zero. Bengal is the model of good governance.
Our slogan for the Lok Sabha elections is Banglar disha Bharater poth, Banglai desher bhobisyot.
There is no cure for the jealousy and arrogance of the Opposition. People have the cure for them. They will teach them a lesson through ballots.
Q: In the end, would you like to give any message to the people?
When the policies of the Congress-led UPA went against the people, we left UPA. We are always with people. We will never betray their trust. I hope they will shower us with their blessings.
This is a transcript of Ms. Mamata Banerjee`s interview with Rajat Kanta Roy of News Time.