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November 1, 2011

‘Trinamool Congress is a very non-demanding UPA ally’ – says Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien

‘Trinamool Congress is a very non-demanding UPA ally’ –  says Trinamool MP  Derek O’Brien

He's one of India's best-known quizmasters – who's answering questions now. Derek O'Brien is Trinamool Congress's vice-president and Rajya Sabha member. Speaking with Monobina Gupta , O'Brien discussed Trinamool-UPA relations, the dynamics between Parliament and civil society – and how West Bengal can finally industrialise:

Mamata Banerjee's refusal sometime ago to accompany the prime minister to Bangladesh revealed the TMC's tensions with the UPA government – your comments?

I think the word 'tensions' is too strong. The Trinamool Congress is a very dependable and non-demanding UPA ally. Yes, we have had differences and there were some questions on the Teesta accord. To thrash out such issues, we want the member parties of the UPA to meet once a quarter, if not once a month. Such a mechanism will help address concerns and allow for discussion on policy ideas and thoughts before these are actually taken up or announced by the government. It will put the UPA on a stronger footing and enhance mutual trust among the alliance's constituents.

The 2G spectrum row has cast a shadow on the government – as the biggest UPA ally, what is your opinion?

The matter is in the courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment. We are confident justice will be done and any wrongdoing will be punished. We have complete faith in the prime minister and the judiciary.

However, Banerjee is known to be a stickler for financial integrity. How does your party view developments regarding the government and Anna Hazare? What’s your response to civil society's role in politics and policies?

We will support any endeavour against corruption in public life. That aside, in West Bengal, we have partnered civil society groups in fighting Left oppression and shaping sensitive, people-friendly policies. However, while we want a strong Lokpal law, we believe the supremacy of Parliament must be respected. With honesty of purpose on all sides, a solution can be found.

Speaking of Parliament, as a new entrant to the Rajya Sabha, what are your views on how Parliament functions?

Parliament is a large university where you never stop learning. I am only a first semester student – even so, there are a few things i have quickly realized. If an MP makes a reasoned and logical speech on education reform, it will not hit the headlines. If he screams and tears his shirt, it'll be all over the media. It's a telling commentary on how Parliament is covered. On my part, i prefer the substantial discussion – and believe me, there is plenty of it in Parliament – to the one-minute spectacle.

Regarding discussions, is social networking going to be one of your party's main channels of communication?

While there is no substitute for ground-level interaction and engagement with local communities, Twitter and Facebook have a role. We have found social networking a useful listening device and mechanism to gauge public opinion. But the future of social media is in regional languages, not in English, especially if it is to make a deep impact on politics.

Before that, however, what is the TMC strategy to industrialise West Bengal? How does Banerjee plan to counter her anti-industry image?

I find this a strange question. We've inherited a debt burden of Rs 2 lakh crore and a legacy of 50,000 closed factories from a CPM government that made a virtue of driving industry out of West Bengal. And you call us anti-industry? Business values nothing more than policy consistency and an honest, non-extortionist government. That is exactly what Banerjee will deliver.

 Courtesy: The Times of India