As his party battles what it calls Trinamool’s terror tactics and an escalating war of words between Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee that threatens to rob it of even the opposition space in West bengal, CPM state secretary and Central Committee member Md Selim — a candidate from Raigunj Lok Sabha constituency — talks to ABANTIKA GHOSH about why he thinks the anti-communal space in the state still belongs to the Left.
How have the elections been so far in West Bengal? What kind of expectations does the Left Front have?
Elections have been good though I must concede that we were not prepared for this kind of rigging…they have captured a fifth of the booths. And everywhere it is the poor and the downtrodden who have been prevented from casting their vote. Mamata is clearly scared, there is a trust deficit. After all, these were her core vote base…if now she can’t even trust them to vote for her there is a problem. Yet my own estimate is that we will get 18-22 seats.
BJP is expected to perform well in the state. How do you view this phenomenon?
A lot of disgruntled elements from the Trinamool Congress have joined the BJP. That is how the BJP is getting their workers, activists, mobilisers. There is no doubt that the BJP will increase their vote share in the state but I do not see that being converted to seats. They will certainly do well in seats like Asansol, Krishnanagar, Kolkata North, Birbhum and Srirampore.
Given the contours of traditional West Bengal politics, the Left should have been the natural choice for disgruntled elements from Trinamool. Is the rise of the BJP a failure of the Left?
The Trinamool was conceived as a die-hard anti-Communist party. These people supported Mamata because they thought she could take on the Left, now they support Modi because they think he can take on Mamata. In the post-90s generation, the anti-communal political space has always belonged to the Left, neither the Congress nor the Trinamool can claim it. Donning the hijab does not make you secular you have to also prepare your cadre accordingly. Mamata’s is the Mulayam Singh Yadav brand of politics by igniting the communal elements in both Hindus and Muslims in the name of secularism.
For the Left in West Bengal which is the bigger enemy, Narendra Modi or Mamata Banerjee?
Certainly it is the Modi brand of pro-corporate pro-multinational hate politics comprising modern marketing and archaic value systems. But the question of whether we will team up with Mamata does not arise because which Mamata shall we base our answer upon? Her politics changes every week. It is important to understand that both Modi and Mamata are practising the same brand of communal politics. After all Mamata created the ground logistics in West Bengal for the entry of Modi.
Have you ceded opposition space in West Bengal to the BJP?
We have ceded media space. Because for the Left, election is a bread and butter fight and we can never indulge in their kind of technology driven, professionally designed shallow campaign. The kind of marketing that Modi is doing, was also done for Ra.one. That is not our way.
Neither do we believe in tom-toming youth faces like some parties do. We prefer our next generation to come up fighting through the ranks.
You accuse Mamata of inciting communal passions yet when the state government started stipends for Imams, you did not raise the matter vociferously
I made a statement criticising the move, we went on a state-wide campaign. Only thing was we spoke to the Muslims persuading them why this is not in their interest, rather than to the Hindus as the RSS would have done.
Between Modi and Mamata, the issue of Bangladeshi migrants has erupted again. Why is Left not a part of that discourse?
We are very much a part, in fact it has always been the Left that has raised the issue in Parliament. There is no mention of it in the manifestos of either of the two parties. We had played a major role in the settlement of post-1947 refugees. We never differentiated on the basis of religion, that is the RSS game. But the matter of people who came in after 1972 is a complex politico-legal-constitutional issue.