Created 14 Apr 2013 - 00:00, The Asian Age Interview of the Week
What do you have to say about the recent outburst of political violence in West Bengal?
There has been sustained violence against the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal ever since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The Trinamul Congress is responsible for the attacks on the CPI(M) and Left cadres and supporters in an effort to suppress strong Left base in the state.
This attack intensified after the Assembly elections in May 2011. Since the Trinamul Congress government came to power, 96 cadres and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left have been killed. The recent incident at a demonstration outside the Planning Commission office has been used to unleash another bout of organised attack on the offices and leaders of the Left Front.
What do you have to say about the attack by the SFI and CPI(M) activists on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the state finance minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission? Do you condemn it? Do you think it is a good precedence?
There was no attack against the chief minister. There was a protest organised against the attitude of the state government regarding the custodial death of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta. Unfortunately, in the course of that demonstration, there was an incident involving Mr Mitra. We have condemned it. On earlier occasions, too, there have been such acts against various political leaders and ministers and we have always disapproved and condemned them.
Ms Banerjee has said that majority of those who got killed in West Bengal were Trinamul functionaries?
She is used to making such wild charges. Even on this occasion, she has said that there was an attempt to kill her. This is totally baseless.
What do you think about the way the West Bengal government is handling the murder case of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta?
A 23-year-old student died in police custody. Ms Banerjee declared that it is a petty matter. Why is the West Bengal government not ordering a judicial enquiry into the incident? Whether death happened due to killing or accident, let the truth come out.
West Bengal has a history of political violence. The Left dominated the state for more than three decades. There is a perception that the Left spearheaded violence and that it is responsible for creating a culture of political violence in the state?
This is a hackneyed charge against the Left. The political violence in West Bengal has been primarily an effort of the state machinery and the ruling classes and landlords, who unleashed violence against the Communist and the Left movements in the 1950s and 60s to suppress them. Even when the Left Front government was in office, violence was directed against the working class and peasant movements. The fact is that such violence existed before the Left Front government assumed office and is there even after the Left Front government ceased to be in office. The Trinamul Congress represents a reactionary force which is out to suppress democratic rights and give the Opposition no quarter.
What is your stand on the situation in Kerala, where one of your party leaders M.M. Mani had publicly claimed the party’s involvement in political murders? Even though you had said that an internal enquiry into the murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan was in the process, nothing has come out yet. Have you given clean chit to your partymen in this case?
As far as the speech by M.M. Mani is concerned, our party took action against him. The judiciary gave its verdict in all those cases. However, the UDF government in Kerala has reopened the cases and filed chargesheet against Mani, which is totally unwarranted. In the Chandrasekharan murder case, our party conducted an enquiry, but the matter is in the court. We are confident that the party’s leaders in Kozhikode district who are implicated in this case will be found innocent.
What do you think about Ms Banerjee’s stalemate with the state Election Commission over panchayat polls? Do you think the Trinamul Congress is deliberately delaying the elections?
We want the panchayat elections to be held on time. The state government is wilfully disregarding the recommendations of the state Election Commission about the manner in which the panchayat polls are to be conducted. The Trinamul wants to ride roughshod and hold elections in a manner in which the Opposition parties are not able to participate in a free and fair poll. That is why it is opposing the sensible proposals of the Election Commission.
Do you see any possibility of Ms Banerjee striking an alliance with the Congress ahead of or after the general elections?
Being an opportunist party, the Trinamul Congress can go with anyone. It should not be forgotten that the Trinamul was part of the BJP-led alliance government where Ms Banerjee was a minister. She has alternated between alliances with the BJP and the Congress. The only constant position she has is against the CPI(M) and the Left.
Do you see any possibility of your party striking an alliance with the UPA?
Our party has already decided to oppose both the Congress and the BJP. We, as the Left, will take a united stand. We would like a non-Congress secular government in office.
Why is the Left not taking a lead this time to form a Third Front?
Our efforts are to create an alternative based on alternative policies. This can come about only through movements and struggles jointly by parties and organisations who are committed to an alternative set of policies. The third front is more commonly associated with an electoral alliance. As far as the general elections are concerned, our party along with the Left will fight elections together and may have some understanding with some of the regional parties at states level.
How do you look at Narendra Modi emerging as a prime ministerial candidate?
If the BJP decides to project Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, it will be a clear message that it is going ahead with its hardcore Hindutva agenda. It is becoming evident that big businesses are backing Mr Modi. This form of Hindutva and big business support is a form of insipient fascism. That is the meaning of the Gujarat model of development, where the Muslims have been beaten down to the status of second-class citizens.