March 22, 2016
The Mamata Banerjee Interview
Question: How confident are you about the upcoming Assembly election?
MB: People are with me. Struggle is a part of my life. Elections are held so that people can judge the government based on performance.
People will decide how many seats we will win. They are the judge in a democracy. I am confident people will vote for ‘joraphool’ because of the work done by us in the last five years.
‘Joraphool’ is in my heart. It represents communal harmony like the poet had described in his work.
I have nothing to lose. I have received a lot of love and affection from people. I know people trust me.
Question: Out of all the work done in the last five years, which are the outstanding ones according to you?
MB: We have given away scholarships to over 1 crore minority students. The budget for minority development has been raised four times. We have worked for people of all communities, castes, religion. We did not see the political colour while disbursing services to people.
The first decision we took after coming to power in 2011 was pass the Singur Bill. But it has been challenged in court. We always fulfill our commitments.
We are suffering because of the debt incurred by the Left. We inherited a huge legacy of debt and paid over Rs 1 lakh crore as installments. Both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi had promised to help us before elections but did not take any initiative.
We are seeking the votes of people on the plank of development. The Opposition is only indulging in smear campaign. I can share some statistics.
The growth rate of Bengal (12.2%) is far ahead of India (7.3%). Growth of industrial sector in Bengal is 10.5% while that of India is 7%. Growth in service sector in Bengal is 13% and that of India is 9%. The Economic Survey of Govt of India says the lowest inflation in India is that of Bengal.
Expenditure on physical infrastructure has grown six times in the last four and half years. Revenue collection in Bengal has doubled in four years. Our planned expenditure has tripled. We are No 1 in paddy production. Bengal won Krishi Karman award four years in a row.
Roads have improved in the State. There are new universities and colleges. New ITIs and polytechnics have come up. 33 lakh girls have received scholarships under Kanyashree scheme. 40 lakh students are getting Sabuj Sathi cycles.
People coming from other places are saying Bengal has changed for the better in the last four and half years. Governance is a continuous process.
Roti, kapda and makaan are the basic necessities of life. We have given houses under Geetanjali scheme. We have set up 108 fair price medicine shops and 80 fair price diagnostic centres. Healthcare is free at government hospitals in Bengal. We have set up ‘Madhur Sneho’ breast milk bank and cord blood bank.
A section of the media only deals in negative campaign.
Industry does not only mean heavy industry. Bengal leads in terms of bank loans given to the MSME sector. Four hydel projects are coming up in north Bengal. NTPC is investing in Katwa plant. A new power plant is coming up at Sagardighi. India’s largest coal block Deocha Pachami will create huge employment opportunities. The days of loadshedding are gone. Isn’t this a matter of pride?
We are a humane government. We have ensured job security of contractual and casual government employees. The Centre has stopped funding ICDS, Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan and several other schemes. Yet we are funding these projects.
Global petrol prices had become cheaper than water. But the Centre did not pass on the benefit to common people. Centre has stopped funds for Jangalmahal development. But, we started Jangalmahal Integrated Development Programme.
Mumbai failed to host Ghulam Ali’s concert. India-Pakistan match could not be held anywhere in India. Bengal came to the rescue. Even the U-17 World Cup of Football will be held in Kolkata. This is our pride.
The amount of work we have done in the last four and half years is unmatched in India.
Question: Are you worried about the CPI(M)-Congress alliance?
MB: I am not at all worried about CPI(M)-Congress alliance. It is a nexus. I had walked out of Congress in 1998 because I refused to accept the friendship of CPI(M) & Congress. We used to call them the B-team. Now the secret is out in the open.
CPI(M)-Congress-BJP have an understanding. They are afraid of us. We will play an important role in national politics in future. CPI(M) has forgotten Lenin, Stain, Ho Chi Minh. Congress has forgotten how CPI(M) called Rajiv Gandhi a thief.
People are the most powerful in a democracy. People of Bengal do not tolerate traitors. The alliance of opportunism will be defeated. People will defeat the conspiracies hatched by CPI(M)-BJP-Congress and ABP.
Congress and CPI(M) had an understanding for many years now. Congress has sold its party flag to CPI(M). I am sure communists who believe in their ideology will not vote for Congress. Committed Congress workers will never vote for their arch rival CPI(M). In fact, Congress workers in Tripura and Kerala are very unhappy because of the CPI(M)-Congress alliance.
The BJP won 2014 elections because of the anti-people policies of UPA 2. We walked out of the government because of such policies. In fact, the Congress is partly responsible for the rise of the BJP. BJP is synonymous with riots and politics of hatred and division. We do not support such policies.
I believe in politics of culture and courtesies. I will counter politically but will never indulge in personal attacks.
We have not forgotten Amta, Sainbari, Marichjhanpi, Netai, Anita Dewan, Anandamargi massacre and many such incidents of violence. 50000 people were killed in political violence during CPI(M) rule. How many of them got justice? Even FIRs were not lodged in the past. Now even if our party men are involved in a crime, they are arrested.
Some people are trying to incite violence and riots in Bengal. During 1992 riots, I was on the streets of Kolkata helping people along with Mother Teresa. Family feuds, disputes between neighbours, clashes between clubs are portrayed as crimes committed by TMC.
I will not repeal the Urban Land Ceiling Act. We are principally against SEZs. I will never support forcible acquisition of land. I will not give up my principles. I cannot betray people. We walked out of the central government in 2013 because we are against FDI in retail.
Question: What is your position on Narada sting operation?
MB: If the sting video is not authenticated, why is the media airing it? If you are not sure about its credibility, why are you misguiding people? I have heard that criminal proceedings were initiated against the person who conducted the sting under Official Secrets Act. The person who conducted the sting was arrested by CBI in the past.
There are several questions that need to be answered… Where did the money come from? Why did they wait till Assembly elections in Bengal before releasing the video?
I have been fighting for state-funded elections for several years now. We are against use of black money in elections. “No ID card, no vote” was a movement led by me in the past. Now I am fighting for electoral reforms. I want to put an end to the politics of black money and blackmail.
I challenge the Opposition to provide proof that I have taken money in lieu of providing favours to anyone. I will resign immediately. Chit funds were set up in Bengal during the Left rule. Why should investigations against them start from 2011 onwards? Opposition has crossed all limits of decency.
We are not worried about any videos. It will have no effect on elections.
Who gave the audacity to BJP to say “Bhaag Mamata Bhaag”. We are not scared of such tactics. I believe in discipline. As long as I live, I will work for the people and dedicate myself to their service.
Question: What is your campaign schedule looking like?
MB: I will begin my campaigning in Jangalmahal on 25 March. Then I will campaign in north Bengal.
I cannot make sense why some districts have elections in more than one phase.
States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have one-phase poll. Assam, which witnesses violence regularly, has two-phase polls.
Question: If you come back to power, what will be your priority?
MB: Bengal has turned around in the last five years. We will help our youth to stand on their feet in future. CPI(M) destroyed the glory of Bengal. The young generation has to restore that glory.
I want to see Bengal transform into Biswa Bangla. Bengal will be the global destination. Artistes are getting their due. There is a tide of development in the State. Heritage of Bengal has been brought back.
Whenever I take any important decision I first think of the people. I cannot betray them. I am in the Chief Minister’s chair because of people. People come first, then Mamata Banerjee and then TMC workers. I have conducted 105 block level administrative meetings in four years. We have started Administrative Calendar. We have launched time bound delivery of services.
Question: How do you keep yourself calm even after such a smear campaign against you?
MB: After we walked out of UPA 2 in 2013, Congress started a smear campaign against us. BJP is following the same tradition. The CPI(M) tried to kill me. They have tried to hurt me. Now they are trying to insult me
I challenge the Opposition to defeat me on the plank of development. Catch me if you can… I have coined the slogan ‘Bishwa Sera Bangla’. I want Bengal to be the best.
Kukurer kaj kukur korlo, kamre diyechhe paaye. Tai bole ki kukur ke kamrano manushke shobha pay.
People’s alliance is the strongest alliance in a democracy. People are with us.
Haat-haturi-poddo, tintei hobe jobdo.