Sudip Bandyopadhyaya, the chief whip of the Trinamool Congress in the Lok Sabha, talks to Rajat Roy on issues involving the party and its equation with the United Progressive Alliance government
A friction appears to be developing in your party's relations with the Congress.
Yes. There are certain issues on which our party does not see eye to eye with the Congress. So, friction is inevitable. As expressed by our leader Mamata Banerjee, the TMC is opposed to opening up of the banking and insurance sectors, exposing pension funds to market risks, special economic zones, and disinvestment of profit-making PSUs, including the Navratna ones.
We are also opposed to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill in its present form. We don't want the government to play any role in acquiring land for private commercial purposes. While acquiring land for industrial and other commercial purposes, stress should be on acquiring fallow and single-crop land. Also, it has to be embedded in the law that one job per family will be offered to land-losers.
Whenever the TMC feels that a move by the government may harm the poor, Mamata does not hesitate to record her dissent in cabinet meetings. On some issues, we have been successful in convincing some constituent parties of the UPA, besides a section of the Congress.
It seems you have more in common with the Left on policy matters
The Left has been preaching some of these policies, but it has never pursued them. Singur and Nandigram are glaring examples of how it deviated from its declared pro-poor policies.
The prime minister recently said he would like all like-minded political parties which care about the well being of the people, who support inclusive growth, to join the UPA-II. That may include the Communist Party of India - Marxist.
We hold Dr Manmohan Singh in high esteem and have faith in him. He interacts frequently with our party leader on important issues. There is no basis for any concern that the UPA-II government will lose its majority. But at the same time, we are opposed to any attempt to woo the CPI-M. Ideologically, we consider it to be our main political opponent in West Bengal. We are in no mood to digest such overtures. We have communicated this to the Congress high command. It must realise that it can't have a government at the Centre where both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar or Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati can be accommodated. The TMC and the CPI-M cannot be in the same boat.
So, coming back to the question about the developing friction between the TMC and the Congress, I would like to urge the UPA to introduce a mechanism for resolving issues that crop up from time to time among UPA constituents. There should be a regular meeting, at least once every two months, where UPA leaders can interact with each other. It should be chaired by (Congress chief and UPA chairperson) Sonia Gandhi. The UPA leaders should give this top priority to keep the alliance going.
There is a growing concern among UPA leaders that Mamata Banerjee is devoting more time to political activities in her home state than to Rail Bhavan.
A minister's performance has to be judged on the basis of the success and failure of projects and initiatives taken by his or her ministry. It should be kept in mind that all budgetary proposals of the railways for 2009-10 made on the floor of the House by Mamata Banerjee have been implemented. Mamata attends the parliamentary sessions regularly and responds to questions regarding her ministry. Unlike some other cabinet ministers who delegate the task to junior ministers, Mamata never shirks responsibility. There is at least one cabinet minister who did not bother to be present during the Question Hour even for a single day.
Mamata should not be judged by the days she spends in the Capital. It's a deliberate campaign by the CPI-M. The CPI-M does not want Mamata to spend much time in West Bengal, where the political scenario is changing fast.
There is a major difference between the UPA government and the TMC on tackling the Naxal menace.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram believes the TMC has no connection with the Naxalites, whatever allegation the CPI-M might be hurling at us. From my close interactions with the home minister, I can claim with authority that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee speaks in one voice in New Delhi and takes an opposite position in West Bengal. The home ministry is quite surprised by this sort of double-talk practised by the chief minister. I should not go beyond that.