May 26, 2016
The Didi Interview
The Didi Interview
Q: So how does it feel after the extra-long election?
A: It was a long campaign that lasted more than three months. We were not at all happy with the schedule. We respect the Election Commission but we feel having six to seven days of elections was not required. We are thankful to Maa Mati Manush. This is a victory for the people, this is a victory for development. This is a victory for peace and communal harmony. We want to thank the people of Bengal. They are the biggest pillars of democracy.
Trinamool won 184 seats in 2011 but we were in an alliance. This time, the CPI(M), the Congress and the BJP came together with an agenda to defeat us. The entire opposition was united against us. But people have given us a huge victory. They are our strength.
Q: Are you happier with the Trinamool’s return to power or are you happier with the CPI(M)’s gradual descent into oblivion? Do you think this is the end of the road for the CPI(M) in West Bengal?
A: This was an alliance of opportunism. Their objective was to grab power. The alliance did not have any ideology. Ideology-less politics is no politics at all. The Congress does not know who its friends are. The CPI(M) has lost everything. And the BJP also has not done well. The people have given them a strong message.
Q: But there can’t be any vacuum in politics. Who do you think will occupy the opposition space? Will it be the Congress or will it be the BJP or will it be a little bit CPI(M), a little bit Congress and a little bit BJP in different areas?
A: There is no difference between the three parties. Their only goal was to try and defeat Mamata Banerjee and stop development in Bengal. We are ideologically opposed to the BJP. So there is no chance of supporting them. The CPI(M), the Congress and the BJP have an understanding. They are afraid of us. We will play an important role in national politics in the future. The people are with us.
Q: But the continuing violence gives your government a bad name. Why aren’t you coming out more openly against violence on the ground?
A: Our party is not involved in any violence. Trinamool is the most disciplined party. Even during the elections, when law and order was under the jurisdiction of the Election Commission, many of our party workers were killed. People have not yet for gotten the massacres in Nandigram, Singur, Netai, Keshpur and Garbeta. The memories of Sainbari, Marichjhanpi, Bantala, Dhantala, and the Ananda Margis being burnt to death, who can forget those dark days? 50,000 people were killed in political violence during CPI(M) rule. How many of them have got justice? Even FIRs were not lodged in the past. Now, even if our party’s people are involved in crime, they are arrested.
Q: Practically every home now has someone working outside. Earlier, it used to be the educated upper and middle classes going abroad for better education and/or job (say, the Amartya Sen class). But now, increasingly, even the lowermost class is quitting Bengal. There are now places in Kerala that have bus routes and advertisements in Bengali. You must be concerned?
A: It is wrong to say that industries are not coming to Bengal. Bengal’s growth rate (12.2%) is higher than the national average (7.3%) right now. Employment opportunities have been created for 69 lakh people. Bengal’s growth in the industrial sector is 10.5%, that of India’s is 7%. Bengal’s growth in the service sector is 13%, India’s is 9%. The Economic Survey of the Government of India says the lowest inflation in India is in Bengal. Expenditure on physical infrastructure has grown six times in the last four-and-a-half years. Revenue collection in Bengal has doubled in four years.
Q: Which is going to be the first big industry house that will now come to Bengal?
A: Industry does not only mean heavy industries. Bengal leads in terms of bank loans given to the medium and small-and-medium enterprises sector. Four hydel projects are coming up in North Bengal. NTPC is investing in the Katwa plant. A new power plant is coming up in Sagardighi. India’s largest coal block, Deocha Pachami, will create huge employment opportunities. The days of load-shedding are gone. Isn’t this a matter of pride?
Q: Are you concerned with the law and order situation? What will you do to prevent para-level extortion? Again, this gives your party a bad name.
A: Law and order has improved in Bengal. Kolkata is the safest metro for women. We have built 89 police stations, including 35 women’s police stations. Jangalmahal is smiling now. There is peace in the Hills. Now even family feuds, disputes between neighbours and clashes between clubs are portrayed as crimes committed by Trinamool.
Q: Voters, on the whole, may have rejected corruption as an issue but if you see the margins of victory in Kolkata and urban areas, is it not a cause for worry? This is the class that was your earliest backer.
A: This is all created by a section of the media. We are an honest, transparent party . Of course, in every family not all members can be perfect.One or two members may be bad. But that does not mean the whole family is bad. There may be some problems in 10 blocks out of 400 but that can be resolved. I am overseeing the entire organisation.
Q: Which department has worked efficiently? Which department has, according to you, failed to perform?
A: All our ministers performed well. We have done more than what we promised in our manifesto. Despite the huge burden of debt, we have worked tirelessly for the people. We have increased our income from revenue but the Centre has taken away over Rs 1.5 lakh crore from our coffers.
Q: Do we expect wholesale changes in the cabinet?
A: Be patient (smiles), wait for a few hours.
Q: Will you change your style of functioning? Will you be even more hands-on (like your ‘Consider me to be the candidate in all 294 seats’)?
A: We have conducted 105 meetings at the BDO level in districts. Earlier, people had to come to Kolkata for work but now the secretariat goes to the people. We have developed a three-tier administration – BDO-DM-CMO – like we have the three-tier panchayat system. We are committed to the socio-economic development of the people and will continue to work for them at the grassroot level.
Q: Do you think you have gone wrong somewhere? Is there anything you would have done differently?
A: We have fulfilled 99.99% of the promises we made in our manifesto. Soon after assuming office in 2011, we passed the Singur Bill. Although we did our part, the matter is still pending in court. It is our commitment to return the land to the unwilling farmers. We will fulfil it.
Q: What hurts you the most? Do you feel hurt by the snobbery of a class of people?
A: Yes. I have been in politics for several decades now but I have never seen so much of hate campaigns, abuses and conspiracies. There were attempts to mislead the people. This is shameful for politics. There was a smear campaign against us for the last two years. Canards were spread. There should be a Lakshman rekha in politics. We must stay within democratic and constitutional limits.
Q: What is your message to the people of Bengal?
A: We are thankful to them for rejecting the smear campaign and conspiracies. They are my strength. We will keep serving them and take Bengal to newer heights of development. We will do what it takes to make Bengal into Biswa Bangla.