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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mamata Banerjee provided a fertile ground to BJP in West Bengal: Ali Imran Ramz

In an exclusive interview to indianexpress.com, Ramz, who is fighting from Chakulia, speaks about the future of the Left, Mamata Banerjee’s “appeasement” politics and emergence of the BJP.

Written by Wali Ahmad | Kolkata |
Updated: April 18, 2021 4:31:55 pm
Ali Imran Ramz said, "To fight the communal force (BJP) that has made entry into the state, it is certainly going to be a challenge for everyone. In my constituency, I have fought this challenge in the past and earned the goodwill of both the communities."

Ali Imran Ramz is a three-time Forward Block MLA from Chakulia assembly seat in North Dinajpur. In an exclusive interview to indianexpress.com, Ramz, who is again fighting from the seat, speaks about the future of the Left, Mamata’s “appeasement” politics and emergence of the BJP as a political force in West Bengal.

You are facing double anti-incumbency. How confident are you about winning the polls this time?

I know it’s a double anti-incumbency for me but winning will not be tough because I have remained connected with the people of my constituency. I have always raised the voice of the people and fulfilled my responsibility as an opposition leader. I have always asked questions of the government about its wrong policies inside the assembly. People have faith in me.

But to fight the communal force (BJP) that has made entry into the state, it is certainly going to be a challenge for everyone. In my constituency, I have fought this challenge in the past and earned the goodwill of both the communities.

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Will the BJP gain in a triangular fight in Chakulia? What is your assessment?

The BJP’s strategy has always been to split the minority votes, and try to corner the rest of the votes. But a major chunk of minority votes are with me in Chakulia constituency. And as far as the BJP is concerned, they will not get as many votes as they did in the Lok Sabha elections. I will get votes from the BJP supporters as well because they are fed up with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s acchhe din promise – of generating 2 crore employment, Rs 15 lakh cash. Demonetisation, GST and the migrant crisis will push people away from the BJP. That’s why the BJP is talking about mandir-masjid, India-Pakistan. People have seen through these. People now want employment. The government is silent about rising inflation and unemployment.

But in your campaign speeches you have mostly targeted Minhajul Arfin Azad, the TMC candidate. And sometimes it becomes personal, to the extent that you called him a thief.

I am not saying that he is a thief. I am only saying that this is the issue people are raising (that he is a thief). He has done some mischief in his village. A village panchayat was called against him. I am only putting out the facts in the public domain. As far as the TMC’s image is concerned, it is known as the most corrupt party in the state and across the country. Right from the chief minister to a panchayat-level member, all are involved in some kind of loot of public money. And the TMC candidate is also like that.

You were the youngest MLA in 2011 and have seen Left politics from close quarters. Where do you think the Left failed in remaining a political force in the state?

It will be wrong to say that the Left has been wiped out. Yes, we are not in government. It is obvious that there was a strong anti-incumbency of 34 years of Left rule in the state. In those three decades, a whole generation had changed. And it became difficult to convince the new generation about Marxist and Communist theories. People in India are attracted more towards capitalist theory. We failed somewhere to convince them. We could not promote a young crop of leaders. These are some of our drawbacks.

So the Left will have to fight for a position in the opposition as they are unlikely to form the government on its own.

Given the current scenario, no individual party (including TMC and BJP) will be in a position to form government. A coalition government is the only reality. And Sanyukt Morcha will be the deciding factor.

Will the Morcha support the TMC in case the latter falls short of numbers?

It is for the TMC to approach us. Our coalition will take a call on this. Our fight is mainly against the BJP, and it’s an ideological fight. We don’t have any ideological fight against the TMC because it is not a party based on any ideology. TMC’s main agenda was only to remove the Left and form its government – the poriborton. That has been fulfilled. Therefore, we have a political fight against the TMC. But we are fighting an ideological and political battle against the BJP. So our priority will be to halt the BJP.

How do you see the 24-hour campaign ban on Mamata Banerjee by the EC?

She was banned for flouting the rules. The EC acted in accordance with the law.

What is your take on identity politics in the state?

The BJP’s main plank in election is religion. They target only one particular community only. But the Left is for all sections of society. Our agenda is inclusive. This is very unfortunate that identity politics, which was not practiced in the state, is a reality now. After Mamata Banerjee came to power, she chose only one community. Mamata became pro-Muslim and the BJP is pro-Hindu. Hindus felt insecure over Mamata’s pro-Muslim stance. Seeking security, Hindus gravitated towards the BJP.

So you agree with the Muslim appeasement charge against the Mamata government?

No, there has only been talk of appeasement. No actual appeasement has happened. She failed to grant sanction to 10,000 madarsas in the state. Not a single madarsa was approved in the last 10 years. She even moved the high court to disband the Madarsa Service Commission – which the previous Left front government had formed to give employment to students who passed out from the state madarsa board. The state government lost the case and moved the Supreme Court. This government did not discuss the recommendations of the Sachar report in 10 years. There was only talk of upliftment of the Muslim community. Did any imam in West Bengal sought stipend from the government? This stipend for Muslims led to a massive rally against Muslims in Kolkata. A counter slogan was raised demanding stipend for temple priests.

Diving communities on religious lines and talking about Muslim appeasement is a charade. She was hand-in-gloves with the BJP and offered a fertile ground to the BJP. Stipend for imams that led to the call for stipend for priests is the prime example of this, providing an entry point to the BJP. Muharram and Durga Puja idol immersion was deliberately made an issue in 2018. But now she herself is feeling insecure. Her agenda was to wipe the Left and the Congress, and rule the state with the BJP, her former ally.

People complain that you have been an MLA for the past two terms and your constituency doesn’t have good schools or good healthcare services.

I respect their sentiments. But if you leave aside Islampur and Raiganj blocks, Chakulia has the best medical services among the remaining seven blocks of North Dinajpur. It is the government’s health department’s responsibility to ensure how other facilities are improved. I have personally approached the chief minister who holds the health portfolio. She has only slogans to offer. Whatever facility you see at the Chakulia hospital now is because of the agitation I had launched in 2005. Back then, I was not even an MLA. The hospital was like a stable. I am still fighting a case filed in 2005 during that agitation.

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