With the BJP emerging as the primary challenger to West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee in the state in recent elections, the party hopes to build on the momentum going for it in the state in when the state votes to elect a new Prime Minister. With a stiff target of 22 of 42 seats set by party president Amit Shah, the Bengal unit of the party is projecting itself as the only alternative to the TMC in the state. In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, National Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party and former president of BJP West Bengal Rahul Sinha slammed Mamata over the state government’s stand on BJP’s Rath Yatra and her politics of appeasement. The leader also said that several MPs from her party are in touch with the BJP. Edited excerpts from the exclusive interaction.
How do you expect the BJP to perform in terms of the number of seats in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Do you expect the Modi wave to continue after defeats in several states?
In the current political scenario of West Bengal, people have lost confidence in Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress. The popularity of TMC supremo has also decreased. People have no trust in CPI(M) as they ruled the state for 34 years but did not fulfil their promises. After CPI(M)’s rule, voters pinned their hopes on TMC and elected Mamata. She gave the slogan – ‘Badla noi, Bodol chai’ (Not revenge, want development) but there is no change. Only revenge politics is going on. So after CPI(M) and TMC, there is no alternative left in the state except BJP. The people have liked the initiatives taken by honourable Prime Minister to free the country from corruption and corrupt people.
The people in the state are saying that the recently held assembly elections in the three states where we have lost, there was not a single incident of violence during the polling. On the contrary, in the West Bengal Panchayat elections held last year, more than 70 people lost their lives. BJP doesn’t believe in violence, we believe in democracy, peace. In the Panchayat election, the TMC stopped the people from exercising their franchise. Muslims, who form the primary vote bank of Trinamool Congress, also realise that Banerjee has cheated them. There has been no development. She spread lies that if BJP comes to power, there will be riots but no such riot has taken place till today. In fact, we are working to give benefits to Muslim women by implementing the ‘Triple Talaq Bill’. No political party ever thought of it but PM Modi raised the issue and changed it. In 2019, BJP will cross the mark (22 Lok Sabha seats) set up by Amit Shah. This is the last year of TMC government in the state.
TMC Lok Sabha MP from Bishnupur Soumitra Khan has just joined BJP. Will it affect TMC? Any more TMC leaders are on the list to join BJP?
Yes, it will impact the TMC. If a sitting MP has resigned from his own party and joined the opposition party i.e. BJP (BJP is the opposition party in West Bengal), this is a big blow to TMC. The people have received the message that TMC is breaking. There are many leaders in touch with us. If Soumitra Khan’s resignation became news yesterday, then till now he would be in police custody by filing many cases. Regarding Bharati Ghosh, we have no news so far but all are welcome.
BJP’s proposed ‘Rath Yatra’ has been stonewalled by the Mamata Banerjee government. Your views.
Our aim and target for organising 40 day-‘Rath Yatra’ is to reach till booth level. But by giving a false report in court, the state administration has stopped us from holding such an event. Apart from Rath Yatra, we have taken up a number of events. We have a belief in the Supreme court that it will understand the situation and permit us to hold the yatra. The people of West Bengal should save the state from the misrule of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party by voting for BJP.
Are you going to field any Muslim candidate on the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state? Will Soumitra Khan get a ticket in the upcoming election?
Yes, there will be Muslim candidates, but I don’t know the exact number of candidates because we give tickets not on the basis of religion but on the basis of their winning capacity. We will give tickets to the concerned person, who has the ability to win the particular constituency. Now, we have only one target and that is to defeat Mamata Banerjee and to throw out Trinamool Congress from West Bengal. We will not give tickets to any person on the basis of their religion, caste etc. We will give tickets to those who have a clean image. Regarding Khan, the tickets will be decided by the Parliamentary board. But we will think and propose Khan’s name to the parliamentary board.
What will be your party’s formula to defeat TMC in the election?
Our formula is to visit each home in the village, city, town and send the message of BJP and highlight the anti-people policies of Trinamool Congress. So there are multiple programmes we have undertaken. We are also getting positive response from people. We will return the past glory of the state- ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.”
What is your agenda to develop West Bengal after coming to power in the state?
We will address the law and order issue. Unless and until we improve the law and order problem, there will be no development. If law and order is sound, development will come automatically. Violence in the state is ordinary but ‘created’. First, the CPI(M) created this problem and now it is the TMC. The police should be free from politics. In our rule, there will no interference on police and law and order issue. The law will take its course. In West Bengal, there is fertile land. Bengal is good for industry, no one can find such cheap labour anywhere else in the country. Many industries around the globe are run by Bengali. We will nurture a favourable job environment so that Bengalis do not have to flee to foreign nations in search of a job.
How do you gauge Mamata Banerjee’s performance in the state since 2011? She claims that there are jobs, development.
There are no jobs and there is no development. In her initial dfays in office as CM, she ran the administration honestly. But after a few days, she allowed party leaders to extract money illegally. Even today, there is an admission racket, an extortion racket and smuggling activities that are running in the state with her permission. CPI(M) also used to do the same thing, but TMC is doing everything openly. We all have seen the Narada sting operation footage where the TMC leaders are seen taking money illegally. Being a political leader, I hold the common man responsible for this. The footage was released a few days before the 2016 Assembly elections but instead of choosing the right person, they voted for the wrong ones in large numbers despite being aware of the truth. After Mamata formed government, instead of punishing the accused, she rewarded them with ministerial berths. Mamata Banerjee is one of the most corrupt politicians. We all know how the paintings by Mamata Banerjee sold for crores.
What’s your take on Bangladeshi migrants and NRC in West Bengal?
This is a big issue and the illegal Bangladeshi migrants should be sent back to their country. They are creating many administrative problems and hampering development as well as jobs. There is need for an NRC in the state. Muslims have many countries they can go to, but for Hindus, India is the only one. We need to think about the Hindu Bangladeshi migrants who were forced to come to the country as they had no place to go except India.
What’s your view on the Third front and the grand alliance?
It will not be successful. BJP will form the government at the Centre. In West Bengal, CPI(M) has extended support to Mamata Banerjee. A few days ago, Left Front Chairman Biman Bose had said that if TMC supremo agrees, they will also participate in the Brigade event which is scheduled for January 19 in Kolkata. But nothing will happen. People are fed up with the TMC rule and want change. BJP is the only alternative that can offer people a better government.
Are you forging any ties with regional or local parties in West Bengal like in North Bengal?
No, we will not forge any ties with any major party. The local parties of Darjeeling are our old friends.
There have been reports of internal fighting within the top leadership in West Bengal BJP. Chandra Kumar Bose also expressed displeasure at how the party has been working in the state. Can a fractured BJP manage to put up a fight against the TMC?
We have democracy in the party. If anyone has any problems anywhere, they can highlight them at the appropriate level. Even Chandra Kumar Bose has done the right thing. Instead of raising the matter before the public, he raised the issue with party leaders. BJP is not a one-man party. There is a democracy and we believe in democracy.
Before 2016 Assembly elections, BJP promised to put Saradha, Narada accused in jail. But the CBI only arrested a few leaders and all are on bail now?
I said that law will take its own course. CBI will do its duty. BJP-led central government doesn’t interfere in the day to day activities of the country’s premier investigative agency. Ongoing investigations in the Saradha chit fund scam began during the regime of UPA and it was a court-monitored probe. The government has no role in it. But what we can assure is that the guilty will not go unpunished.
BJP has been accused of polarisation and communal politics. How do you propose to counter this narrative?
It is wrong to say that Bharatiya Janta Party is indulging in communal politics. We don’t do that. It is the Trinamool Congress which indulges in such activities to garner minority votes. Since July 21, 2018, till today, there is not a single poster of TMC chief wearing Burkha and praying to Allah. This is because the majority in the state are Hindus. We have seen in 2016 and 2017, how she prevented Hindus from the immersion of Durga idols and stopped them from organising Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti. After the interference of court and the issue raised by BJP, the Mamata Banerjee government was forced to withdraw its order. By withdrawing the orders, Banerjee acknowledged the rage among the Hindus. So, now she is trying to show a secular image. Whatever she does, is just to secure votes.