Nilotpal Basu, 59, is a member of the CPM central secretariat. He was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1994 to 2006. Hugely respected for his parliamentary acumen and other public interventions, Basu, in a chat with Nidheesh J Villatt explains how West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is killing all forms of political dissent in her state. He reveals how violence is taking new forms in West Bengal and TMC is forcing elected representatives from opposition parties to defect by torturing their close relatives, even small children. Women are facing brutal forms of sexual violence. Basically he claims there is no rule of law in Bengal under TMC.
Q: Can the Supreme Court verdict against land acquisition by Tata during the former Left government in Bengal be seen as Mamata Banerjee becoming more powerful in the state?
A: Mamata is hyping it to consolidate her territory. Soon after the elections of 2011, Left Front had publicly declared that TMC government can democratically take a decision on the acquired land.
Q: But certain media reports suggest that it was a great political victory for Mamata. Your comments.
A: When it comes to governance, Mamata is extremely short-sighted. She is not politically addressing the urgent need to industrialise West Bengal. We are for an industrialisation project that would respect the concerns of the poorest of the poor. Without industrialisation, West Bengal’s economy would collapse.Right now at one end, there is little enthusiasm for industrialisation. At the other end, unlike during Left Front’s time, massive agrarian distress has started hitting farmers and agricultural workers. All commodity prices are escalating. TMC government has failed to ensure minimum support prices for farmers. I feel that hunger is returning to Bengal.
Q: Hunger returning to Bengal? Can you be specific?
A:Mamata is emphasising on several short-term measures to show that government is concerned about welfare. But her short-sighted policies are ruining Bengal’s economy. Much-hyped rice scheme (supplying rice at Rs 2/kg) is not working properly. Mid-day meal scheme is a disaster. In tea plantation belts, there is a severe crisis. There are tragic starvation deaths happening here. TMC government is not intervening to address this.
Q:Despite all these negative factors, Mamata got a huge mandate. Just before elections, Narada News sting was published. Several top leaders of TMC were exposed in Narada sting. But even united opposition couldn’t prevent Mamata from winning the election. Why?
A: Yes…technically Mamata won the election. Before the election, there was a public opinion which was building up against Mamata. But to translate this public mood into electoral gains, you need to have a booth level organisation. Opposition parties were not allowed to function during elections. Apart from the massive corruption exposed by Narada, Mamata government was hit by several other scandals. All of you must be familiar with Saradha chit fund scam. Whatever information you have about Saradha scam in the public domain is just tip of the iceberg. There are several such scams by private chit fund companies connected to TMC. They pumped an unprecedented amount of money during elections. For them, it was a do or die battle.
Q:But even a united opposition couldn’t put up a stand against this?
A: You should say united secular opposition. BJP is just technically in opposition. The reality is that there is a complicit understanding between TMC and BJP. It was evident from assembly results. There was a vote transfer between TMC and BJP in several constituencies. See how TMC government is hunting Narada’s editor Mathew Samuel. Forensic evidence proved that videos released by Narada are genuine. See how BJP is creating a conducive atmosphere to this witch-hunt. After Narada sting exposed serving MPs of TMC, Lok Sabha formed an ethics committee to enquire about it. But what happened after that? Why not a single sitting was conducted? Why the chairman of the committee L K Advani is silent? It clearly shows the connivance of BJP with TMC. This complicity was also evident when central agencies didn’t pursue cases related to Saradha scam despite the interventions of the court.
Q:Are you saying that BJP government is not at all acting on Narada tapes?
A: When the Narada tapes were released BJP screened it publicly in Calcutta streets. Many senior leaders of the BJP including Narendra Modi spoke about Narada tapes during the election campaign. This was basically drama. What action did they take? One should understand that there are several areas where BJP and TMC share same grounds. Take the case of economic policies, especially privatisation and labour reforms. Both speak the same language. While central government is busy with privatizing profit making PSUs, Mamata is also doing the same in Bengal. For an instance, profit making Durgapur Chemicals was privatized by her. TMC government is also selling prime land owned by Calcutta Tramways to real estate sharks at prices lower than market rate. This is a huge scam. When it comes to the question of suppressing labour, Modi and Mamata believe in same policy. Mamata was behaving madly during the last general strike.
Q:So how is opposition planning to counter Mamata?
A: To be honest, there is no parliamentary democracy in West Bengal. Post-election days are witnessing unprecedented forms and institutionalization of violence. Infact in post-election period, violence is taking new forms. TMC is forcing elected representatives from opposition parties to defect. If they don’t agree, TMC cadres would start torturing close relatives of them. Even small children are not spared. Women would face brutal forms of sexual violence. In some cases the district collector himself forces opposition MLAs to switch to TMC. A CPM MLA who is from a Dalit community was threatened and pressurized by a district collector to join TMC. There is no rule of law in Bengal.Organised criminal gangs controlled by TMC decide everything. In several cases, opposition activists are forced to commit suicide. If Mamata is unleashing this kind of brutal violence, history won’t forgive her.