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April 8, 2011

If the leadership is good, everything will flow in Bengal: Mamata Banerjee

If the leadership is good, everything will flow in Bengal: Mamata Banerjee

Kolkata, April 7:  Q: Some are predicting a sweep for you; some are saying the CPM is regaining ground. What do you have to say?

Mamata Banerjee: I am saying not a single vote to the CPM. Let them disappear forever and never come back.

Q: What is the reason behind your confidence?

Mamata Banerjee: I am confident because we know Bengal. I know every road, every para, every district in Bengal. We understand the people. We have been with them. Enough is enough. The people are with us.

Q: What is the most fundamental difference between the CPM and Trinamul?

Mamata Banerjee: When they talk about suryoday (sunrise) it is about bloodshed. For us, suryoday means development.

They are criminals. Amader sathe kono tulana hoy na (there can be no comparison with us).

The CPM always says “no-no” while I am a positive person. So, for me, it is always yes-yes, with the blessings of Maa-Mati-Manush.

Q: What is your biggest strength in this poll battle?

Mamata Banerjee: The people and my party workers. I have always been with the people, from the first day I started politics. They give me my strength. There have been so many times when I stood by the people. Singur is one such example.

Q: How can there be development without land acquisition? How do you propose to resolve this?

Mamata Banerjee: For 34 years, no land map has been made, no land bank prepared. In the railways, I got this done in 18 months. There will be no land grab, no land taken away forcibly from the farmer. If industry happens, the landowner is also a stakeholder.

Q: What about the Maoist problem? Won`t it come back to haunt you?

Mamata Banerjee: This is a CPM game. There has been no development in West Bengal, especially in Jungle Mahal. The situation is so bad that there have been starvation deaths in Amlasole and people have had to survive on ant-eggs. I am not saying this now. In 1991, I led a padayatra on this issue. I wrote about this in my book Upalabdhi (Realisation) more than 15 years ago.

You have to understand that in the CPM itself, they have created a culture of haves and have-nots. They have tried to squash any uprising through arms and ammunition.

Q: Bengal has long been associated with bandhs, and bandhs have long been associated with you and your party. How do you reconcile that with your pitch for development now?

Mamata Banerjee: We have not called a bandh in two years. No bandhs, no gheraos, no rokos, even though thousands of our workers have been killed by CPM harmads. The CPM are masters of state-sponsored bandhs.

Q: But Bengal is in a state of paralysis. Nothing seems to move. How do you propose to get things started again?

Mamata Banerjee: If the leadership is good, everything will flow. We do not wish to blame bureaucrats or unions (for the state of inaction). Our idea of a work culture mission will ensure that people are served speedily and in a transparent way. We want to restore ganatantra (democracy) and remove daltantra (party rule). First work, then (political) party.

Q: What`s your goal for Bengal?

Mamata Banerjee: Bangla abaar jagat sabhay shreshtha ashan lobey (Bengal will regain its place at the top of the world).

Q: What is your source of inspiration?

Mamata Banerjee: My idealism comes from my late father, Promileswar Banerjee. He taught me the value of a humanitarian outlook. My father died when my elder brother was 17 and I was 15. He was just 41 when he died. I will bear the burden of his untimely death throughout my life…. I believe every individual has a specific goal and direction in life. I too dream of doing something worthwhile with a humanitarian approach.

Q: Was that dream born young?

Mamata Banerjee: I was different from my classmates in school. When I was in Class IX- X, my classmates would talk about going to college, dressing up. I used to remain silent. In those days I hadn`t spared a thought about what I would do in the future. My mother was unwell and I had to do a lot of house work. Every morning I used to wake up at 3.30am, finish cooking, get my younger brothers and sisters ready for the day and then go to school. After returning home, the first thing I did was cook for us all. Where was the time to dream for the future?

Life changed a bit after I got into college (Jogamaya Devi). That was the time when I had my first real experience with politics. My father died just days before I stepped into college. Only God knows what I and my family went through in those days. That was also the time when I joined student politics. I joined politics to work tirelessly; it was about idealism. At that time the college union was controlled by the DSO (the student wing of the SUCI). I started the Chhatra Parishad union in our college. Gradually, those with Left leanings came over and joined our union, and DSO lost ground.

Q: How do you look back on your first brush with electoral politics?

Mamata Banerjee: None of the leaders from the party was willing to contest from Jadavpur (in 1984). Then my name was proposed. What could I do? I submitted my nomination paper as the Congress candidate from Jadavpur. I was determined not to give an inch without a fight. The common people had an important role to play in my electoral victory.

Q: A portrait of Rajiv Gandhi has pride of place in your room….

Mamata Banerjee: He was like an elder brother. His death was a shock. I had a feeling that I was left without a guardian after his death, as it was when my father died. For seven days I couldn`t speak to anyone. I couldn`t eat. I kept myself locked in a room and wept. He still inspires me.

Yes, I have his portrait in my room. Whenever I face any problem or some difficulty comes my way, I gaze at his portrait. It isn`t deliberate but I find myself looking at him. It seems to me that he has a smile on his face and is saying: “Mamata, how are you? You are not facing any difficulty, are you?”