Boosted by a landslide victory in the panchayat elections, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is hoping for a repeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But even before she takes on her political opponents in the poll, a rebellion of sorts within the TMC seems to be posing a bigger challenge.
TMC MP Somen Mitra (left), is seen as the one leading the rebellion. Incidentally, in the late 90’s it was Somen versus Mamata over the youth Congress leadership that was perceived to be the main reason for the present West Bengal chief minister launching the TMC in 1998. Will Bengal politics see history repeating itself? In an interview with Probal Basak, Mitra says he is not the sort of person who would lead a rebellion.
After Kunal Ghosh raised his voice against the TMC leadership while sharing stage with you recently, the party has now suspended him. What is your reaction to Ghosh’s suspension?
I really do not know what is happening to him and why. Apparently my wife, Sikha Mitra, who is a TMC MLA, was also suspended by the party for anti-party activities. The suspension apparently happened a year ago. But my wife is yet to get the suspension letter. In fact, she has not received it even after putting in quite an effort on her part to procure it. So, to be frank, it is difficult to give a reaction on Kunal Ghosh’s suspension, as in my wife’s case the suspension letter never reached her. I have to see what they have written in the suspension letter, if at all he has received it.
Anyway, I think Ghosh is capable of commenting on this issue himself and is in the best position to do so. When I had problems with the Congress, I left the party.
Other TMC leaders such as Tapas Pal, Shatabdi Roy have publicly shared their displeasure with the TMC, that, too, in your presence. You are the one seen as leading the rebellion within the TMC. Why is this so?
I am not the kind of a person who does backstabbing and sabotage. If I have reservations about any matter or if I dislike something, nothing has stopped me from expressing it in the past. I have been in politics for decades now. I work on the diktat of my own conscience. I am not the sort of person who will lead a rebellion.
But it is quite clear you are not happy in the TMC. What is the reason -- is it a repeat of the personality clash that took place between you and Banerjee in the 1990’s in the state Congress?
No, I have no issues with the person Mamata Banerjee is. She is like my younger sister. I don’t criticise her government also. I never interfere in government affairs. But, yes in some matters, I am in disagreement with party affairs. Being in the party, it is not right on my part to discuss them in public.
Is it the Saradha scam and the TMC’s alleged links with the fraud that makes you unhappy?
Everyone knows about my position on the issue. It was not specifically about Saradha, but, yes, I had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the mushrooming of chit funds across the state much before the matters came into the limelight. I had personally informed the state government and my party leadership about my letter to the PM on this. I do not think I have to say anything more about this. If I am not happy in the party, it is not because of one particular issue. It is about the way the party is run.
Could you please elaborate?
What I see around the state is partycracy. In the Left regime, too, it was the party that was controlling the lives of the people. The party’s interest became supreme -- not that of the people. This had destroyed the political atmosphere in the state.
Unfortunately, there has been no change in this new regime. In fact, the same partycracy has made a comeback in a more crude form now. I cannot endorse this. The atmosphere in the TMC is suffocating now.
Your sharing of stage with the Congress leadership, visit to Pradesh Congress headquarters in Kolkata to attend functions -- what does it all signify? Is a reunion with the Congress on the cards before the Lok Sabha elections?
I am a TMC MP and a member of the party -- that is how the reality stands now. I am a representative of the people. I never hide things, which I should not from the public. I work on the basis of my conviction. And I cannot say what will happen in the future. When I left the Congress because of my problems with the party, I had made that known to everyone. If I do anything of that sort, I will let everyone know.
But, yes I am not ruling out the possibility of re-joining the Congress. But, I can’t say whether it will happen or when it will happen. Nothing is static in politics. There is still a lot of time left ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Don’t you think you will lose credibility if you switch your loyalty to the Congress yet again?
All these years in politics my stand has been anti-Left. I have seen people suffering for decades during the Left regime. I left the Congress to join the TMC because at that point of time, all forces were coming together under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, to end three decades of Left misrule. She truly was leading the battle against the Left misrule. So, I also joined her. I have never denied that, a large section of people saw her as the alternative. Banerjee, too, successfully took up the challenge.
But, again when I see that the same partycracy of the Left regime has made a stronger comeback under the TMC’s rule, it upsets me. Why should people misunderstand me? I am raising my voice for the people after all.
As a TMC MP, do you think Banerjee should work out an alliance with the Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections?
I cannot express my personal view on issues like this. The party leadership knows what to do and what not to do. Let the party take the decision.