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April 22, 2016

Q&A | Congress-Left have no ideology: Derek O’Brien

Q&A | Congress-Left have no ideology: Derek O’Brien

Congress-Left have no ideology … goons, scams precede TMC … we hosted Pakistanis … ideology no T-shirt changed daily: Derek O’Brien

Q: Amidst reports of corruption and violence, isn’t it true that the Trinamool administration has only increased goonda raj in Bengal?

Derek: That’s a cynical start to this interview. The history of modern Bengal has recorded Amta, Bantala, Choto Angaria, Dhantala, Sainbari, Marichjhanpi, Netai, Nanoor, Nandigram ­ massacre after massacre.

Q: All this when the CPM ruled Bengal ­ and you are asking me about goonda raj?

Derek: Today even the Congress has forgotten that CPM cadres massacred 50,000 Congress and Trinamool workers in three decades.

Peace and development returned to Bengal in the last four and a half years ­ you will see proof of this on May 19 when people endorse this reality.

Q: But Bengal never experienced crimes against women under the Left ­ why has this begun under Trinamool?

Derek: Factually incorrect ­ the Trinamool government has adopted a `zero tolerance’ approach towards crime against women. Out of the 65 women police stations that were planned, 30 have already been set up.

Two major media houses have also named Kolkata India’s safest city.

Q: Speaking of tolerance, exactly why has your party given a ticket to Saradha scam-accused Madan Mitra?

Derek: Well, 2 lakh voters in his constituency will decide who will represent them ­ the final decision is theirs. On the issue of chit funds, we want the truth to come out. Chit funds are not a new phenomena ­ they were started and encouraged by the CPM decades ago.

The matter is in court. Let me also add, the Trinamool government passed the anti-chit fund bill to put a complete stop to this menace.

Q: Isn’t Trinamool playing a dangerous communal game meanwhile, Malda’s recent violence es being an example?

Derek: Are you only going to ask me cynical questions?

Actions speak louder than words ­ when a Ghulam Ali concert and an India-Pa kistan match were desperately seeking a peaceful venue, Kolkata did India proud. I needn’t say more.

Q: Concerts and cricket aside, what have been some significant achievements of Trinamool in the past five years?

Derek: The UN-acclaimed Kanyashree scheme, providing financial support to girls from disadvantaged families, today benefits 31 lakh students.

Sabuj Sathi is a scheme where 40 lakh bicycles have been distributed for easier access to schools. And under our landmark Khadya Sathi scheme, around 7 crore, 49 lakh people are getting essential food grains at Rs 2 per kg.

Bengal has made great strides in sanitation and health too ­ Nadia has become the first district in India to earn Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and now, Halisahar has been listed among India’s top 10 cleanest cities.

Over 100 Fair Price medicine shops have been opened and Rs 440 crore discounts ha ve benefitted 1.57 lakh patients.

Q: But what have you done for industry, once totally smashed in Bengal?

Derek: On almost every economic indicator Bengal stands several percentage points higher than the national average.

Bengal’s gross value-added growth is 12.02% against India’s GVAG of 7.3%.The service sector in Bengal grew at 13.9% against India’s 9.2% while the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector grew at 5.5% against India’s 1.1%.

India has also achieved over 7% increase in industry ­ where does Bengal stand? At a robust 10.5%.

Since May 2011, loans worth Rs 92,000 crore have been disbursed to entrepreneurs from the MSME sector. Here too, West Bengal is number one.

Q: Evaluate Trinamool’s chances at the polls.

Derek: Social sector, infrastructure, health, education ­ Mamata Banerjee’s government has brought development to the people in every corner of the state.

Hence, we are confident that the people will endorse this development agenda ­ and reject the Communist-Congress facsimile.

BJP’s divisive politics is also a nonstarter in Bengal.

Q:And what do you feel about old foes Congress and the Left becoming new allies in Bengal?

Derek: It is an ideology-less alliance ­ friends in Bengal, foes in Kerala. This is the Congress party’s Communist conundrum.

Trinamool was formed in 1998 to expose precisely this hidden pact between the Cong-rades.

The masks are now off ­ on Trinamool’s part, we do not believe ideology is a T-shirt which you can change everyday.



This interview was first published on the Times of India dated April 22, 2016