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December 5, 2016

Whenever I start a movement, there is criticism, I am used to it : Mamata Banerjee Interview

Whenever I start a movement, there is criticism, I am used to it : Mamata Banerjee Interview

Leading the charge against the Centre’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke about the reasons for her protest and the Army’s presence in her state.

There is a lot of criticism from the BJP and others who are saying that you are seeing conspiracies where there are none. What is your reaction to this?

Whenever I start a movement, there is criticism. I am used to that. When I began the movement against the Left, with Jyoti Basu as Chief Minister, I was criticised. I was attacked by the Left. Later, when I began the movement in Singur, I was similarly attacked and criticised. This is the same thing.

But whatever the common people feel, that is the truth that matters. People know that this move of demonetisation is a black move by a black government. People will respond to note-bandi with vote-bandi.

What is the next step in your protest against demonetisation?

We are going to continue our opposition against the Modi government and demonetisation. I believe in constructive criticism and the opposition needs to be united. But already, the BJP has no one speaking in favour of them. All these economists, it is not like they know me. But they are all speaking out against demonetisation, warning people that this move will ultimately harm the economy. Who is speaking in favour of the government, except some people who don’t have a choice but to — some film stars and some businessmen, who need to speak in favour of the government because they are scared to do otherwise. This is a scheme to ensure loot of common people’s money. The government has started a scheme where they will take money, in old notes, and then say that this is their revenue. They will claim that their revenue has increased. It’s a complete eyewash and dacoity.

Why do say that demonetisation is linked to elections?

The government isn’t releasing Rs 500 notes equally. We have asked the RBI to release the details of how many Rs 500 notes have been sent to which state. They haven’t done that yet. In West Bengal, the demand is far higher than other states. But here we have had almost no Rs 500 notes. Most of the ATM machines haven’t been recalibrated. But in BJP states, there is no such problem. In UP, they are not releasing Rs 500 notes because the BJP wants anger to build against the Samajwadi Party.

The Army has claimed that they had followed protocol regarding deployment in the state, what is your stand?

The Army is being used as a political tool. Whatever they are saying is misinformation and lies. It’s a concocted story. The Army never took permission from the state government. The home secretary has written to the Centre to withdraw the Army from the district. If the Army isn’t withdrawn, we will take legal action. We are being targeted because we have raised the issue of demonetisation.

So what do you think the Centre is attempting to do?

Curb protest. There is no money anywhere and the BJP can’t tolerate anyone’s protest. This has never happened before. The central government is an elected government but with limited mandate, we don’t interfere in their jurisdiction there. The state government has limited jurisdiction. But in this situation, the economy has no money, it’s impossible to give people wages. No one is getting money in hand. What will people do? Now the government is trying to scare you, so that you can’t go to the bank and take out money. This is yet another surgical strike.

The BJP is constantly attempting to weaken the federal structure of the state. They continue to speak directly to our secretaries, bypassing the chief minister. The Prime Minister holds video-conference meetings with the chief secretaries of the state. Why should he do that? There is a system in place and there is a reason for that. The Centre has no right to do so.


Written by Aniruddha Ghosal, The Indian Express, December 5, 2016