Mamata has some secret agenda behind pullout: WB Cong chief
West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee President Pradip Bhattacharjee is a busy man. Between answering calls from the Prime Minister's Office, he tells Rajat Roy about how the Congress is on an upward trajectory in West Bengal.
Any separation causes pain. How painful was this separation with the Trinamool Congress in the state?
Definitely, it is painful for us. I believe that the sensible section of TMC will also share this view. But sometimes, some political situation arises when we have no other option, but to accept pain.
But I would like to dwell on why Mamata Banerjee pulled out of the UPA-II government in the first place. The reasons she has offered are flimsy. She went in the public saying foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail would cause distress and hardships to the common people. This is not true. I think she has some secret agenda. She thinks if the Congress-led government goes out of power, possibly, she would get a chance to project herself in the national arena. That is the reason she has been trying to take up the role of a coordinator to bring the non-secular parties together. She had earlier tried to play this game during the nomination of Pranab Mukherjee for the Presidential election, but failed. This time, also, she won't taste success.
But this is nothing new. She has the habit of placing herself over and above the greater public cause. That is the reason she has, in her political career, often tendered resignations on flimsy grounds -- sometimes, she has offered to quit and sometimes, not quit at all. Earlier, she left the National Democratic Alliance, this time she pulled out of the UPA. She wants to dominate the national party, be it the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress, although the numerical strength in Parliament does not favour her.
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Image: Ministers of Trinamool Congress speak to the media at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan after they quit the UPA on September 21
'Not allowing FDI is a major political blunder by Mamata'
While Mamata Banerjee and the Left have been campaigning vigorously against FDI in retail, do you think the Congress has done enough to convince people about the positive sides of FDI?
Our party has taken this issue seriously. To counter the false allegations by some political parties, including TMC, that FDI would be harmful for the people, we have started explaining things in proper context. The Congress has explained that FDI is not harmful to both, retailers and farmers. On the contrary, it will help them get better price for their produce.
Moreover, once introduced, this will eliminate middlemen from the agro-marketing system. WBPCC will soon launch a massive campaign in the districts to explain the positives of FDI in retail. Incidentally, by not allowing FDI in Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government will cause great disservice to the state. It is a major political blunder being committed by her.
It should be remembered in the early years of the Jyoti Basu government, the Left had resisted the introduction of computers in industry. As a result of that, 'silicon valley' grew not in Kolkata, but in Bangalore. Who suffered as a result of that? Surely, the people of West Bengal! It seems the political parties of Bengal have a typical mindset, in which a new idea is not welcome and is resisted without understanding its full import.
'Now, Bengal Congress has opportunity to flourish on its own'
For the past three years the ministry of railways was with the TMC, in other words, with the people of Bengal. As a result, Bengal got a number of new projects. How important was that for the state's economic development?
Railways has a big role to play in development activities. It is the backbone of the Indian economy. Though the state saw a number of railway projects, including the East-West Corridor of Metro Rail (which is very important for Kolkata), the state government failed miserably to support these projects. Immediately after coming to power, the Mamata Banerjee government declared that it would not acquire land even for public-purpose projects, let alone private industry projects. As a result, no new investment is coming to the state. Railways is a public purpose project.
Now, because of the state government's inaction, the work on the East-West Corridor of Metro Rail is suspended owing to a contentious land issue. A number of new and ongoing projects are facing a similar fate. Both Mamata Banerjee and Mukul Roy held the portfolio of railways at different times. I fail to understand why they could not grasp the seriousness of the implication of this erroneous land policy. Ultimately, the people of Bengal will suffer. Its consequences would be felt not only in the economic arena, but create a serious political crisis as well.
The chief minister has been repeatedly claiming that her government has, within a span of 18 months or so, created 600,000 new jobs. She further claims that of these, 300,000 have been created in the state sector, while the rest are in the private sector. Any comments?
Where did she give these jobs? I don't accept that. Let her give the details of the new employment. Let the government come out with a district-wise break up of the people who got jobs in the last 18 months. I think she is referring to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme figures to justify her claim.
After this separation with TMC, your party will have to face a triangular contest in the coming elections. Are you concerned about that?
On the contrary, I think, now the Bengal Congress has the opportunity to flourish on its own. Earlier, we were under pressure from the TMC, as we were having an alliance. Now, we are free.
In the coming days we will go to the people with issues relevant to their interests. I am hopeful that our party will fare well in the coming elections, not only in the Panchayat elections, which are due early next year, but also in the 2014 general elections.