Where is TMC’s opposition -­ Left parties are gas balloons, BJP plays Draupadi: Sovan Chatterjee

We have reproduced an interview of Sovan Chatterjee with The Times of India as published on April 17, 2015

Trinamool Congress leader Sovan Chatterjee has been heading Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) as the city’s mayor since 2010. Chatterjee, who hasn’t lost an election since 1985, faces another civic poll on April 18. Speaking with The Times of India, the mayor discussed Kolkata’s development, allegations of corruption by opposition ­ and why he thinks BJP prefers playing Draupadi over developing political maturity.


Q: Critics often call Kolkata a decrepit city. What’s your view?

Mayor: Well, that used to be the perception about Kolkata once upon a time ­ but no longer.

In the last three to four years, people coming to Kolkata have said the city has changed a lot. It doesn’t look shabby any more. The city is much cleaner, roads are better, streets are well-lit, the riverfront has been developed and looks beautiful. Civic amenities have improved.

When I took over as mayor of Kolkata, my chief Mamata Banerjee said she didn’t want to listen to any excuses about funds or space crunch. In the last five years of our stint, we’ve tried our best to develop the city holistically ­ but Kolkata is a 300-year-old city with problems that come with age. So, more work remains to be done.


Q: But isn’t the opposition alleging corruption against the outgoing KMC?

Mayor: Is anybody alleging lack of development in the last five years? No.

The development work we undertook in the last five years is my trump card for this election. In the last 30 years, the Left Front ruled KMC for about 20 years. They did not do anything to increase water supply to the city by even one gallon ­ in the last five years, we ensured drinking water supply to 95% of the city.

Earlier, large swathes of Kolkata would be waterlogged for three to four days during rains. Now, the water’s cleared in two to three hours. Another crucial achievement is removal of garbage dumps and replacing them with compactor garbage disposal machines, possibly a first in Asia. This was done with financial help from the West Bengal government. We aim to make Kolkata free of visible garbage dumps soon.

Mind you, before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, UPA government had approved several projects, including garbage compactors and JNNURM. UPA also sanctioned funds ­ but BJP cancelled all allocations after coming to power.

However, that could not impact Kolkata’s development. People have seen how the city has improved.

Since the opposition can’t find fault with our work, they’re making baseless allegations ­ it’s like give the dog a bad name and hang it.


Q: Who’s your main opposition in the civic polls?

Mayor: Where is the opposition? I’m still searching for them. CPM and Left parties need to mould their politics so it appeals to people ­ just being a gas balloon doesn’t help.

BJP’s in a hurry to grab the driver’s seat. Mama ta Banerjee had to wait for years before she got experienced drivers to steer Trinamool Congress to power. Our men were killed in Left Front’s regime ­ but Trinamool workers didn’t run away.

BJP lacks workers and their leadership loves talking ­ it’s easy to be a Draupadi in a political drama but political maturity is difficult to attain.