'Mamata is everywhere, but there is no improvement anywhere'
'As a member of the Trinamool Congress, there is no scope for any frank and honest discussion in the TMC. The party runs on a one-person mandate. Either one has to abide by it or keep mum,' Somen Mitra, who is on the verge of quitting the party, tells Rediff.com's Indrani Roy.
Somen Mitra, once considered one of the main pillars of the Trinamool Congress's political base in West Bengal, is all set to quit the party and rejoin the Congress.
A member of Parliament from Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas, Mitra had left the Indian National Congress in 2008 and formed a new party, the Pragatisheel Indira Congress.
In October 2009, the PIC merged with the All India Trinamool Congress.
Soon after, the TMC MP started expressing his displeasure about his party's methods.
Long before the Saradha scam hit Bengal, Mitra wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to curb the chit fund business in Bengal, much to the chagrin of TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
His wife, Trinamool Congress MLA Sikha Mitra, lashed out at Banerjee last year.
In an exclusive interview with Rediff.com's Indrani Roy, the dissident Trinamool MP cites his reasons for quitting the party.
Why are you unhappy with the Trinamool Congress?
When the Trinamool Congress came to power, it was riding high on the aspirations of millions of people. But it failed to fulfill the promises it made.
It only concentrated on gaining power and political mileage.
The party had so much to do, but so little was done.
Mamata Banerjee is known as one of the most hardworking leaders...
She is extremely hardworking. In fact, one can get tired watching her slog. But her efforts don't translate into visible and tangible results.
She is everywhere, but there is no improvement anywhere.
Be it education, administration or law and order, Bengal is miles behind other states.
Such hard labour therefore, is useless, isn't it?
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Image: Dissident Trinamool Congress MP Somen Mitra
'A downward movement for the TMC is inevitable'
How is Mamatadi as a leader?
I am no one to judge her as a leader. But as a member of the Trinamool Congress party, I must say there is no scope for any frank and honest discussion in the TMC.
The party runs on a one-person mandate. Either one has to abide by it or keep mum.
It is impossible for me to operate within a so-called 'democratic' set-up, pretending to be dumb.
We hear Mamata Banerjee and you have always shared a cordial relationship.
I have no personal animosity against Mamata, even now that I am quitting the party. She never insulted me. But colleagues and friends around me often got snubbed.
I once overheard her telling a member of Parliament, 'You are surviving as a politician simply by using my name on your letterhead.'
Those who put up with such humiliation don't have a spine.
I can't afford to wait for a time when such words would be hurled at me.
I will resign from the Lok Sabha before crossing over to the Congress.
You said the TMC did not fulfill most of its promises. Do you think the party's image has been tarnished?
The law of gravitation states that whatever goes up must come down (smiles).
It is as true for physics as for politics.
Having reached the summit, a downward movement for the TMC is but inevitable.
This is when the leaders need to intervene -- to ensure that there is minimum fall in maximum time.
But the TMC leaders are not taking any effective steps to consolidate the party's foundation.
If the TMC leaders are not strengthening the party, what are they up to?
They have become power mongers -- almost all of them.
All that they seek is unbridled authority to do anything and everything.
Each one of them thinks s/he is an independent centrifugal force and people would just dance to their tunes.
This is no democracy, you see.
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Image: A car decorated with an image of Mamata Banerjee after she took the oath as chief minister.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
'The Saradha scam is just the tip of the iceberg'
How is the Congress reacting to your return?
The state Congress has welcomed me. But the position of the Congress in Bengal politics is weak.
Once I rejoin, I will try to revive it.
Is it true that your wife along with other TMC dissidents will join the Congress as well?
I have no information on this. All I know is that my wife too is unhappy with the party leadership. But she has not yet declared to quit.
As for other TMC dissidents, I am in touch with some of them, especially Kabir Suman. But I have not asked any one to leave the TMC and join the Congress with me.
When I left the Congress years back, I had not urged anyone to follow me. And this time too, I would like to go it alone.
You had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about chit funds in Bengal long before Saradha happened.
Mamata was extremely unhappy with me dashing off the letter. I just couldn't help approaching the prime minister on the issue as no efforts were being made by her to counter the issue.
The Saradha scam is just the tip of the iceberg.
Hundreds of other chit fund scams will surface soon.
Thousands will die, suicides will be rampant.
It is time the central government did something.
Are you happy the way Mamata Banerjee handled the Saradha case?
Of course not. A lot of questions remained unanswered.
On what logic is Mamata denying her party's connection to (Saradha group chief) Sudipta Sen?
She knew him quite well when he donated ambulances for Junglemahal or contributed generously for various political events.
Now that the lid is off Sen's real business, she can't feign indifference.
Do you think Mamata Banerjee should have consented to a CBI probe?
When she was in the Opposition, she would demand a CBI probe at the drop of a hat.
Why are the rules changed now that she is in power?
Uni to sototar proteek! (She is portrayed as an epitome of honesty).
Why is she not inviting the central investigating team now?
The Opposition is vociferous about the scam. A CBI investigation would have silenced all voices of dissent.
Why is Mamata being so defensive, I wonder.
Suspended TMC MP Kunal Ghosh recently told the media that he has a list of TMC people who took money from Sudipta Sen.
I don't know about such a list. All I can say is the TMC just can't shrug its responsibility off the Saradha scam.
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Image: Police officers escort Saradha Group Chairman Sudipta Sen.
'I don't see Modi adorning the prime minister's chair'
Narendra Modi is often being projected as the next prime minister of India.
Only a section of the media is doing this.
I don't see him adorning the prime minister's chair.
Actually, the more Modi is highlighted, the better it is for the Congress. It gives them an instant issue for the election.
It takes the masses only a few seconds to recollect the Godhra case whereas it takes them a few hours or even days to recollect the scams that plague the Congress at the moment.
Congress jibes against Modi are sure to take people's minds off controversies surrounding the Food Security Bill, Aadhar etc.
Who do you foresee as the next prime minister then?
The political scene will be clearer early next year. Till then, no politically responsible entity should jump the gun.
What is your opinion on Rahul Gandhi?
He appears to be an upright young man.
I have met him only once.
It is being predicted that in case the Congress does not fare well in the forthcoming election, it will choose to be in the Opposition.
If the Congress does so, it would be the wisest decision. The party would then get time to reorganise itself.
It was mentioned on a regional television chat show recently that amid the political chaos that is prevalent today, one may even see Mulayam Singh Yadav as the next prime minister and Mamata Banerjee as the deputy PM.
Mulayam and Mamata can never coexist under any political circumstances. There can't be two first boys in a class and there is bound to be confrontation.
Jokes apart, I don't think a government can be formed without the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party.
They are the essential ingredients of any political and administrative formula.
Image: BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi receives flowers from a Muslim cleric after the inauguration of a hospital run by a Muslim trust in Balasinore, near Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters