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January 6, 2019

We respect freedom of speech, not freedom of lies: Abhishek

We respect freedom of speech, not freedom of lies: Abhishek

Capping an end to the old guard-versus-new debate, Abhishek Banerjee, MP and Trinamool Youth Congress National President, said his primary aim was “to ensure that the old guard of the party who fought with Mamata Banerjee to overthrow the Left regime have a distinct, respected place in the party”.

Abhishek Banerjee said: “I am a foot soldier of Trinamool Congress, and my primary goal has always been to strengthen the party. My aim is also to ensure that the party’s old guard… continues to guide us in our endeavour to serve people of India and Bengal. We are not like BJP, which consciously forgets respected leaders like L K Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi when they are in power at the Centre. TMC believes in inclusive politics and strong internal democracy.”

In his first exclusive interview to TOI, Banerjee spoke on several contentious issues, indicating that even if the BJP top brass singled him out for attack, he would “not get involved in personal abuse or smear campaign”.

The Trinamool MP said he didn’t count the opposition as a threat as long as people who played the game-changer in 2011 stood by the party. “There is no formidable opposition in the state as people of Bengal have seen the dark days during Left regime and the present divisive politics coupled with the draconian policies of BJP. Our main challenge is to ensure better livelihood for the 10 crore people of Bengal, to ensure an inclusive Bengal and to dissuade divisive forces trying to destroy the ethos and ethics of our state,” Banerjee said. “As far as Bengal is concerned, Amit Shah is daydreaming or travelling in wonderland thinking of winning 6 or 23 seats,” he added.

On the repeated personal attacks against him by Mukul Roy, Kailash Vijayvargiya and BJP president Amit Shah, Banerjee said: “We respect ‘freedom of speech’ but not ‘freedom of lies’, which is the specialisation of Shah and Co. I don’t get involved in personal abuse or smear campaign. Disagreement to the Centre’s policies should not be construed as a personal attack.”

Quoting Stewart Stafford’s “Never listen to destructive criticism — it’s only meant to silence you”, Banerjee added: “As any public figure, I’m open to fair criticism, but not canards. Therefore, despite all their false and fallacious propaganda, they have been rejected by the people of Bengal and turned down by various courts.”

Banerjee for the first time broke his silence on several subjects, some personal. “The little free time that I do have, I like spending at home with my family, and especially playing with my daughter. I love to read to keep myself abreast with what’s happening around us. In this digital age, none can be divorced from social media and I am no exception. Particularly my younger colleagues in the party would like to get their clarifications addressed fast and there can’t be a substitute to social media,” he said, adding matter-of-factly that sports would be his second choice if he were to give up his first love, politics.

On the party’s setbacks in the panchayat polls in Jangalmahal, he said: “In panchayat elections, the syndrome of vote is more confined to the personal character of the person contesting than to the party he or she represents. For example, a voter voted for a CPM candidate in the panchayat in his village but the same person casts his vote for Trinamool for gram sabha and zilla parishad. You will see that all 23 zilla parishads and more than 95% of the panchayat samitis have been won by TMC as people know Trinamool is the only party which represents development for one and all in society. And irrespective of an individual’s party affiliation, majority voted for Trinamool, which brought about a significant change in the livelihood of people.”

Banerjee reserved his sharpest pitch for BJP. “BJP, led by Mr Modi, made tall promises before they came to power in 2014. Five years down the line, the country knows where it stands. Be it economic mismanagement in the form of double whammy of demonetisation and a hurriedly-implemented GST, which has almost crippled the economy considering 90% is an informal economy, be it MSME or others or the agrarian and farm distress which has hurt the farmers and the agricultural sector, which almost employs 50% of our populace. On top of that, the culture of religious polarisation is puncturing the social fabric of our country that has always upheld pluralism,” Banerjee said.


As reported by Saibal Sen for The Times of India