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The Rediff Election Interview/Rebel Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay
March 08, 2004
The final separation of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and her till recently closest lieutenant Sudip Bandopadhyay could not have been more acrimonious. That their spat could become so bitter is something old party workers -- who saw the two work shoulder-to-shoulder to create the Trinamool Congress in 1997 -- can scarcely believe.
Speaking over the telephone from Kolkata, Bandopadhyay gave vent to his frustration at being denied a Trinamool ticket from the Calcutta North-West parliamentary seat by the mercurial Mamata and also spoke on other issues.
An exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay:
What is your plan of action now that you have been denied a nomination from the Calcutta North-West seat, which you have nurtured since the party made its electoral debut in West Bengal politics?
I have decided to contest as an Independent. If (Mamata) has chosen to remain immune to reason, then I think that is the limit. It smacks of vindictiveness of the worst sort and it is not the first time such ingratitude has been shown at the apex level of the party.
What does that mean?
I have been given many responsibilities in the party and I have discharged them all satisfactorily. I was the leader in the Lok Sabha all these years and have always articulated our viewpoint with conviction and concern. I have grown with the party and the attempt to remove me by denying me a ticket from Calcutta North-West is mean and downright petty, not expected from a mature leadership.
Has there been a precedent?
One senior party member was shabbily treated before (Ajit Kumar Panja) and humiliated by the party chief. He preferred to distance himself away. He later came back but the point is, autocratic functioning is at premium. How long can senior party leaders tolerate such mindless berating and haranguing (by Mamata), use of unparliamentary language that denotes flagrant defiance of good breeding?
Agreed we all belong to the party but it is not the trademark or personal property of any one of us. All members, especially the elected MPs, have an equal claim to it.
The consensus (in the Trinamool) is that you are being made to pay for being over-ambitious.
It is absurd and fanciful; it is like seeing ghosts where none exist.
It is well known that when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee nearly inducted you as a central minister, your party chief intervened and nipped the move in the bud. You were since then a marked man in her eyes.
I was the bridge that brought the Trinamool back into the National Democratic Alliance fold when many in it were opposed to our being taken back. Why is it being forgotten that I persuaded the (Bharatiya Janata Party) leadership to make Trinamool once again an NDA constituent? When we had gone out, our supporters said the party leadership had grievously erred. I was singularly instrumental in the party's return to the NDA. Let that not be forgotten.
Why do you think Mamata is persistent in making you contest from the Raiganj parliamentary seat (a stronghold of senior Congress leader Priyaranjan Das Munshi)?
I cannot let down my supporters and agree to contest from somewhere with which I have no familiarity, no base. I have worked very had in my constituency from where somebody else (Kolkata Mayor and Trinamool leader Subrata Mukherjee) has been given clearance. How can I take such injustice lying down?
Wasn't there some way in which this matter could be resolved?
I appealed to her (Mamata), told her we could sit down and amicably sort out the issue. Her response was that the party's election committee decided on the party tickets. They planned to humiliate me further so I decided the best way was to fight as an Independent. Obviously, her traits are totally dictatorial.
Won't splitting Trinamool votes in the Calcutta North-West constituency cost it adversely and benefit the third contender?
I did everything in my power to ensure that such an eventuality did not come about. But when someone's determined to have one's way without caring for the costs, what can I do. The Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is keen to capture this seat. That's why my supporters are appalled at the way I am being treated by the leadership. They have worked day and night to consolidate my political influence in this seat. The introduction of somebody else from here will undo all the hard work by my supporters and me. It can have disastrous consequences.
For the Trinamool, which we have built with our blood, sweat, and tears.
Where do you go from here?
I will fight from my constituency. Beyond that, one will have to wait and watch.
Is there any scope left for reconciliation?
Stranger things happen in politics.
Image: Uday Kuckian