Aiming to project herself as the primary challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2019, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has decided to hold a mega rally at the Brigade parade ground in Kolkata. Invitations have gone out to the leaders of all opposition parties for the rally scheduled to take place on January 19, 2019. The Trinamool Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the BJP in the state as well as the Centre, wants to ensure victory on a maximum of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, TMC leader and Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy discusses the prospects of a Grand Alliance and why BJP is in no shape to take on the TMC in the state. Edited excerpts from the interaction
What will be the TMC’s campaign strategy in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal?
The campaign strategy of the party has not been finalized yet. Our party is holding a public meeting at Kolkata’s Brigade parade ground on January 19, 2019, for which all the opposition leaders have been invited. It is in that meeting possibly that our leader Mamata Banerjee will spell out the campaign strategy.
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Will Trinamool Congress forge an alliance (pre-poll or post polls) with Congress and CPI (M)? If you are forging ties, then what will be the seat-sharing ratio?
In 2016, Trinamool Congress fought alone. So, that is the present condition. And where does the question of Congress and CPI(M) arise?
How many seats is Trinamool Congress targeting in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections?
We will target all 42 seats in the state.
What is your view on the efforts to forge a third front? Will TMC be a part of it?
No comment at this moment. But Mamata Banerjee is taking a lead and she had announced that she wants one to one fight against the BJP everywhere. But regarding the front etc. No decision has been taken so far. Everything will be announced by Mamata Banerjee at an appropriate time.
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Vote percentage of BJP has increased in the assembly elections. We have seen BJP gain traction in Panchayat elections too. Do you see the BJP as a threat? If so, how will you counter the saffron party?
BJP is not a threat to us because the saffron party is not strong enough. But it is true that BJP is gaining some votes at the cost of the CPI(M) as it showed in the Panchayat elections. Our party has taken a view against BJP and the communal politics. Mamata Banerjee has been the vocal against the demonetization and hurried implementation of GST. Our party has also been the vocal against the National Register of Citizenship (NRCs) in Assam. So these are the issues which we will project against the BJP.
What’s your take on Ram Mandir? Do you think the issue will have an impact on the 2019 Lok Sabha election outcome?
This is BJP’s old issue. But I have a doubt that how much the Ram Mandir issue will have an impact.
Unemployment is a big issue for Narendra Modi government ahead of the 2019 elections. What’s your view on this?
The government has failed to provide employment. There is jobless growth, in fact, employment has decreased. This is a serious issue which we need to put in front of the public.
How has West Bengal changed ever since Mamata Banerjee took over the CM’s post in terms of unemployment and industrialization?
Mamata Banerjee built very good infrastructure for the industry in the state such as roads, bridges, hospitals etc. Both physical and social infrastructure has built up in the state and investments are coming up (both manufacturing and the IT sector). Future is very bright for West Bengal.