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'This is a victory of Mamata's personal charisma'

By Indrani Roy
May 20, 2016 15:22 IST
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'The 2016 election was the worst in the Left Front's political existence.'

IMAGE: Trinamool Congress workers celebrate the party's victory in the assembly polls. Photograph: PTI

Celebrations continued for a second day on Friday, May 20, after the Trinamool Congress's stunning victory in West Bengal. The Trinamool won 211 of the state's 294 assembly seats, bettering its 2011 tally of 184 seats.

And the joyous mood prevailed at the south Kolkata home of Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Saugata Roy, with his associates distributing sweets and samosas and smearing each other with green gulal.

Amid this hullabaloo, Roy, below, left, squeezed out some time to speak to Indrani Roy/Rediff.com about the victory.

What led to this victory?

This huge victory is but the victory of our party chief Mamata Banerjee's personal charisma.

It is a proud moment for Mamata Banerjee who built the party from scratch.

This victory is very special for us, as we were fighting a tough battle this time.

There was opposition from all quarters -- from the Congress, the Left Front, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and a section of the regional and national media. But we triumphed against all odds.

Full credit goes to Mamata Banerjee. She worked round the clock, talked to the people, listened to them.

In this sweltering heat, she addressed as many as 166 meetings. Her grit, hard work and determination paid off.

May 19 is a historic day for Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress.

Did you expect such a huge success for the TMC?

I was certain about our win, but I could not make an exact prediction about the number of seats we would win.

That is just not possible for even the smartest of psephologists.

What has been the TMC's unique selling proposition? Is it development in rural areas?

Of course! As chief minister, Mamata Banerjee focused on development across the state.

Changes were visible, both in the rural and urban areas. Kolkata during her regime has become cleaner, safer and more liveable.

In the villages, people got better roads, more power, rice at Rs 2 per kilogram.

Girl students in villages got cycles and financial assistance through social welfare schemes like Kanyashree etc.

People are leading better lives and they have expressed their gratitude by voting for us in huge numbers.

IMAGE: TMC MP Saugata Roy. Photograph: india.gov.in

Do you think people of Bengal rejected the Congress-Left Front alliance?

The Congress and the Left had lost their political relevance in this state for quite some time.

Post alliance, the Left somehow managed to make their loyalists vote for the Congress, but the latter's votes did not shift towards the Left.

Instead those votes came our way (smiles).

In the history of West Bengal, the 2016 elections was the worst for the Left Front's political existence.

There was such a hue and cry over the Narada sting operation prior to the election. How did it become a non-issue?

(Pauses). The hue and cry that you are talking about was orchestrated by a section of the media and our political detractors.

But it was not successful in influencing the people. Most political parties in their mad rush for mud-slinging often forget that people are not fools.

They don't take allegation against leaders they trust at face value.

Nine of your ministers lost.

Election is all about winning and losing. We need to ascertain the reasons for defeat and need to act accordingly.

Any loss is unwelcome, but then you don't expect any party to win all the seats.

The BJP won three seats. Isn't that a big change?

Not at all. The BJP had got 17% votes in the last Lok Sabha election.

This time, the party has got only 10% votes. I am sure the BJP's share of votes will decrease further with time.

BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh had chanted slogans like 'Bhaag Mukul Bhaag (Run Mukul Run)' and 'Bhaag Mamata Bhaag (Run Mamata Run)' at various rallies prior to the election. Would you like to send him and the BJP any message?

What Mr Singh said was not only derogatory, but also humiliating. Now the people of West Bengal have given him a fitting reply. I leave it to the people to give Mr Singh and his party a royal push in the next Lok Sabha election.

I feel Mr Singh and his men should personally apologise to Mamata Banerjee for his remarks.

Will Mamata Banerjee stand by the BJP in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for passing important bills like the Goods and Services Tax etc? At the post-election result press conference, Banerjee dropped such hints.

Again the media put words in Mamata Banerjee's mouth. She never actually said she would go all out to support the BJP.

All she meant was that she would coordinate with the central government for running the state.

Issues like GST etc are serious that call for a detailed discussion.

What will be the TMC's plans for the Lok Sabha election in 2019?

(Smiles) 2019 is quite far off. Let us enjoy our fabulous victory for the time being.

Our party is brimming with confidence now. And we hope to repeat our success in 2019 as well.

You speak of development being the TMC's USP. But industrialisation in the state has taken a backseat, hasn't it?

Industrialisation, as you know, doesn't happen overnight. Mamata Banerjee has led a few industrial summits in the state and industrialists have shown a lot of interest to do business here.

Now that the TMC has scored such a huge victory, industrialisation will be a natural fallout.

Investments will pour in from all quarters. I am certain the economy of Bengal will improve by leaps and bounds.

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Indrani Roy / Rediff.com
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