INTERVIEW WITH BUDDHADEB BHATTACHARJEE
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee gave an interview to People's Democracy for its special issue on Bengal published on 6th March, 2011.
Q: The entire period of 7th Left Front government has seen turmoil in the state. In this backdrop, what are the most important achievements of your government?
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee : It is a fact that the seventh Left Front government had to work overcoming unprecedented difficulties, particularly in the form of political obstacles to development programmes. Also, there was concerted effort of creating anarchy in different parts of the state. However, we achieved considerable success in both economic and social spheres in continuation of earlier record. West Bengal has now become self sufficient in rice and many other agricultural crops. Agricultural production has retained its growth trajectory despite a general agrarian crisis in the whole country. We emphasised on extension of food processing and could successfully spread food processing industries in districts.
Despite obstacles and patently misleading campaign against us, the industrial development of the state has marched forward. In fact, in 2009 and 2010, the amount of investment in the state was highest ever. In spite of global recession, entrepreneurs have come forward to set up new industries in the state. This is evident from the number of Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum (IEMs) filed by the entrepreneurs with the Government of India for setting up of new industries in West Bengal. During the calendar year 2009, West Bengal received 206 IEMs with a proposed investment of Rs 44,390 crore. During the last few years, West Bengal received 1362 IEMs involving investment proposals of Rs 2,37,000 crore which accounted for 5.47 per cent of the total investment for the country as a whole. The total investment during the calendar year 2009 was as high as Rs 8493.43 crore. These facts prove that Singur or Nandigram were exceptions, not the rule.
In the industrial development in West Bengal, we gave a policy thrust in the development of Small Scale Industries. According to the last NSS data, there are 27.5 lakh unorganised industrial units in West Bengal, generating employment for 55 lakh people, which is highest in the country. During the period 2006-2010, 45,495 Micro and Small Scale Units have started operations providing employment for more than 4,65,000 persons. Along with that, West Bengal has achieved great strides in IT and all major concerns have established their centers in the state.
In the social development sector, we have achieved more than 99.06 per cent enrollment in primary education. The number of Self Help Groups, particularly consisting rural women, has crossed 14 lakh. The state government has firmly stood beside those in the unorganised sector, ranging from transport workers to Bidi workers through social security schemes in large scale. For last few years, in particular, the state government has initiated a gamut of programmes for the social, educational upliftment of the minorities.
Q: This period has also witnessed erosion of support for the Left in elections. Do you think this trend can be reversed?
Buddhadeb: Yes, of course. In the 2009 parliamentary elections and in the 2010 municipal elections, Left Front has suffered setbacks. We have thoroughly analysed and identified the problems. We identified shortcomings and deficiencies in political activities, government functioning and organisational problems of our Party. We have initiated the process of corrections in all these aspects. We have reinforced our dedicated interaction with the people, speeded up government’s activities in the social sector and rejuvenated Party work. We have begun to get positive results also. In the last few months, massive popular mobilisation has taken place in our political programmes. Huge rallies have taken place in districts. In fact, I, myself, am witness to unprecedented gatherings in many districts. The people have begun to realise the true face of the opposition. The mass base and support for the Left in West Bengal is deep and wide.
Q: There is a spectrum of anti-Left alliance: Trinamul Congress to 'Maoists', along with a considerable section of media, different secessionist and communal groups, forces based on identity politics etc. Why has the Left become the so-called 'Common Enemy' of these forces?
Buddhadeb: The Left Front and its government has pursued an alternative path steadfastly, and successfully defended the interests of the toiling people, and expanded democracy. Peasants, workers, different sections of toiling people have been empowered not only economically but with self respect also. West Bengal is the advanced outpost of secularism in the country. The Left in India has opposed the neo liberal trajectory and growing intervention of the imperialist forces. West Bengal, as the strong base of the Left movement, has helped to build up struggle against these policies. There have been continuous efforts to destabilise this government, which have failed so far. Therefore, these forces have come together and are trying to dislodge us by hook or crook. They have thrown away all moral and political justifications just to oppose the Left. Degenerated ultra left 'Maoists' have come together with parties like Trinamool Congress. The Congress has also joined in the fray as a junior partner. Their coming together is a clear demarcation of the politics of the Left Front.
Q: What is your assessment about about Trinamul Congress?
Buddhadeb: This is worst type of Right wing political force. Trinamul Congress was formed, and continues to function, with one and only aim of unseating the Left Front government. The only political, ideological essence of that party is anti-Communism. They have no political agenda except for that. They have no other economic, social programme. Naturally, they do not have any political morality as well. We have seen them in the company of the BJP, as a partner in the NDA government, and now with Congress and UPA. They are raising some slogans recently with ‘leftist’ fervor. This is a ploy to hoodwink people. Their entire politics is destructive also. They have created anarchy in the state; their activities and their alliance with 'Maoists' are main sources of increased violence in the state.
Q: You have told many times in the recent period that “Left path is the only way for West Bengal”. Why do you say so?
Buddhadeb: The world has seen the negative consequences of unbridled capitalism. International finance capital-led globalisation has caused havoc in USA, and Europe too. This has increased inequality on an unprecedented scale. The life and livelihood of overwhelming majority of people have been negatively affected. In many parts of the world, particularly in Latin American countries, peoples’ protests have taken definite left-oriented political shape too. Even the recent turmoil in Arabian world contains an element of discontent against these same policies.
In our country, neo liberal policies are badly affecting the poorer sections. There are two Indias now, the shining India and the suffering India. In such a situation, the only desirable way is the Left way. In West Bengal, as I have said before, the Leftist understanding is deeply rooted in society, in politics, and in cultural ethos too.
Q: What will be the main slogans of the Left Front in the coming elections? What will be the main issues of campaign?
Buddhadeb: We will go forward with our developmental programme. That will be our major plank. We will consolidate our success in agriculture. We will accelerate industrialisation to make state economy stronger. The main thrust will be on employment. We will continue in our effort for income generation for the poorest of the poor. Land reforms will continue. Expansion and raising the quality of education is an area of priority. We will continue to expand programmes for SC, ST and minorities.
In the election campaign, we will strongly approach the people to defend democratic rights and the achievements recorded by the toiling people. One of the major planks will be to defeat the forces of anarchy.
Q: What will be priority areas, new areas of venture for next Left Front government?
Buddhadeb: Our priority is clear. Our class orientation is clear. We will definitely take more measures for the working class, particularly the workers in the unorganised sector. We will stand by the side of construction workers, handloom workers, ICDS workers, Mid-day meal helpers. We will try to put more life into Self Help Groups. The priority of the next Left Front government will, of course, be the younger generation. The students and youth are very talented with great potentials. We have to fulfill their aspirations, utilise their capacities. We will strengthen our efforts for their education and employment.