For most of the Winter Session, the Trinamool Congress has been on a warpath with the BJP. TMC national spokesperson Derek O’Brien tells Abantika Ghosh why they have taken a tough stand against the saffron party
Your party has been locked in a bitter fight with Amit Shah of late. What is that?
Trinamool was formed by Mamata Banerjee after years of people’s movements and struggles… She has gained credibility over three decades, not just in Bengal but across the country. So when people come and let fly wild accusations, you have to ask: Who is this person? Is it the same man whom the CBI arrested in July 2010 in the fake encounter cases? But it’s not about an individual. It’s about ideology. It’s about a devious pattern to create communal disharmony with intent for electoral gain. It works at various levels. One of these is to make baseless allegations… Amit Shah should apologise to the people.
But hasn’t TMC been on the defensive since the Saradha scam?
Who arrested Sudipto Sen, the head of Saradha, from a hideout in Kashmir? Not the CBI, but West Bengal Police. Who suspended Kunal Ghosh from the party? Six lakh distressed people have got their money back, another five lakh remain… The malaise of chit funds has been around in Bengal, Assam and Orissa for decades. This is not something which sprouted in the past three years.
It is often said that the TMC is a one-woman party.
You could put the same question to the Congress, SP, BSP, BJD, DMK, AIADMK and, of course, the party which is now running the original one-man show.
Why has the opposition taken such a tough stand on Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s remarks?
I am not too surprised by what she said, because this is their strategy. Pre-election orchestrated toxic rhetoric, designed to be divisive. Nine parties in the Rajya Sabha are now working together to censure this kind of behaviour… We in the opposition want the RS to function… The keys to open it are with the Government.
Your party has made some sharp attacks on the BJP in the last two weeks.
There are different faces of the BJP. They talk of Digital India but plot Destructive India. They have a suave, articulate speaker in the Rajya Sabha but bigots in Nagpur. So we say to the BJP, you want to come to Bengal? Come. Fight us politically. But do not try and use the CBI or anybody else for political vendetta.
There is a perception that the Trinamool is uneasy about BJP’s increasing base in West Bengal.
In their last rally in Kolkata, Bengal’s BJP had 8 portraits on their backdrop. Six of them do not live in Bengal. A few days ago, they also claimed that the internationally renowned film director Rituparno Ghosh was meeting Amit Shah at Ashok Road and joining the BJP. How little do they know! The great Rituparno passed away over a year ago. Now let’s talk numbers. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool won the North Kolkata parliamentary seat. But in the Chowringhee Assembly segment, we trailed Congress by 2,000 votes and were ahead of BJP by 3,000. In the same Assembly, a by-poll was held two months ago. Shah came to campaign and the TMC won by 15,000 votes. The TMC also won the Basirhat parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha polls but it one Assembly segment (Basirhat Dakhin), we trailed BJP by 31,000 votes in May. In September, a by-poll was held, which the BJP won. But by how many votes? Just 1,500. This is Amit Shah’s track record in Bengal polls. We wish he comes even more often.
But from a party with no base in the state, the BJP has made considerable inroads.
From a low base, they have improved. The Left, as an ideological option, now has to work very hard to maintain its share of votes in Bengal. If you put a gun to my head and ask me to choose between the Left and BJP — we are ideologically opposed to both — but left with no option, I will choose Left.
Does BJP’s rise in West Bengal alarm Trinamool?
As long as the people trust you, there is no cause for alarm. What is worrying is their strategy to whip up communal tension. There is a pattern. Another concern for parties like us is the use of big money. Money power leads to muscle power, and muscle power can wield influence. Electoral funding is the answer. BJP with their billion dollar campaign has become the Bharatiya Janata Product.