Interview: Anti-Incumbency Against Mamata Govt and Modi Govt is a Big Factor in Asansol: CPI (M) Lok Sabha Candidate Gouranga Chatterjee
In an exclusive chat with NewsCentral24x7, he said that Modi wave doesn't exist this time, unlike 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Gouranga Chatterjee has campaigned across the length and breadth of Asansol Lok Sabha constituency in the last one month. He is fighting against two popular personalities Union Minister Babul Supriyo and former actress Moon Moon Sen. However, Chatterjee feels that the real stars are the common voters who are supporting him in the constituency and not the “outsiders”. Asansol goes to polls on April 29.
The former MLA spoke to NewsCentral24x7 exclusively in the CPI (M) office in Asansol. Edited excerpts:
NewsCentral24x7: The focus is on two celebrities in Asansol — Babul Supriyo and Moon Moon Sen — do you think it is an advantage for you because you are a local candidate while they aren’t from this place?
Gouranga Chatterjee: This question was asked to me before as well. This is not my fight alone. The fight is between our parties, and it is not between the candidates. Both the opposition candidates represent a certain principle. This is a fight of policies and principles that each one of us represent. The “star” and “non-star” factor isn’t an issue at all. And I think the real stars are the citizens of the country, the farmers, the labourers. Whichever political leaders these stars decide to support will emerge victorious in every political contest.
A huge majority of students, factory workers, coal workers, farmers and middle class are rallying behind us. They have participated in several rallies too. In front of these “stars” those candidates are “non-stars”.
There is a concept of natural justice. It is not dependant on rule books, but the public does consider it while casting the votes. When the voters elect a candidate, they feel they have a right to ask them to protect their land, area, property, etc and they want the candidate to know about every aspect of the constituency. When the candidate isn’t local they naturally feel that the party has not done justice. They automatically feel unrelated to the “outsider” candidate. This is what we are noticing here. Now, we have to see how far it impacts the political scenario here.
NewsCentral24x7: Many industries were shut in Asansol recently and several individuals are sitting jobless due to this reason here. However, the youth of the city and a large section of the voters are still supporting the BJP and Narendra Modi. How is your campaign focusing on these issues?
Gouranga Chatterjee: There are seven Assembly segments in Asansol parliamentary constituency. Out of these, five and a half Assembly constituencies are dominated by coal workers, two and a half constituencies are dominated by steel and engineering workers. The Modi government has passed a coal mines act in which it is clearly stated that private entrepreneurs will be allowed to extract coal from any part of the country. They can sell and use coal from everywhere in India. This is one type of privatisation. The Trinamool and BJP both voted in favour of this act in Parliament. Congress and CPI (M) opposed it. In the industrial segment, Burn Standards and Hindustan Cables were shut down.
Trinamool is supporting the privatisation move because some of the private businessmen who are coming to extract coal in West Bengal are unofficially working for their party. There are some coal mafias also which have been given a free hand by the state government; minimum 200 trucks of coals are being illegally transported to Kolkata and other places on a regular basis. Both the BJP and Trinamool are turning a blind eye.
We are discussing these issues in our campaign rallies. Most of the parliamentarians, MLAs and even panchayat members in our country know how to use the powers vested by the Constitution on the political representatives. But, they are not using these powers, unfortunately. A few years ago, panchayat members in Kerala stopped Coca Cola from using water in their village. They were aware of their rights. When I was in Assembly, I raised every issue related to Sharada and Narada. So, we are just trying to explain to the people here that both the local MP (Babul Supriyo) and Trinamool MLAs have not used their powers to protect their (voters’) rights and raise their issues in Parliament and Assembly, respectively.
NewsCentral24x7: But, the people across West Bengal still blame the CPI (M) for many of the problems which they are facing today. The Trinamool is benefiting from Babul Supriyo’s anti-incumbency and vice-versa. Why is the CPI (M) not able to gain from the anti-incumbency factor?
Gouranga Chatterjee: Anti-incumbency against Mamata government and Modi government is a big factor in Asansol. In the case of Trinamool, they looted votes in Panchayat elections, corporation elections and Assembly elections also. The anti-incumbency factor is working against the BJP as well because during Modi’s tenure Burn Standards and Hindustan Cables were closed. They are now trying to shut CLW (Chittaranjan Locomotive Works).
The working class in this area attend our rallies and support us. So, it cannot be said only the BJP and Trinamool are benefitting from the anti-incumbency factors. The people who are affected by both these parties are coming with us and rallying behind us. They want to defeat both these parties. Ar noy (not anymore) they are saying in our rallies. We have a lot of support.
NewsCentral24x7: What are the issues do you think the voters of Asansol will consider while voting in the Lok Sabha polls this time?
Gouranga Chatterjee: The shutting down of public enterprises is a big issue. The Sharda and Narada scams should have been investigated properly, but the CBI is under Modi and both the leaders (Mmata and Modi) have an understanding due to which investigations have not been carried out. The increasing communal tension across the country is also in the minds of voters here. The workers are not getting their PF amount. The economy is in a mess. Well, the voters are miffed with the current government for many reasons.
NewsCentral24x7: It is widely believed that Babul Supriyo won due to the Modi during 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Do you think that Mr Modi’s rally in Asansol this time will again have a huge impact on his performance?
Gouranga Chatterjee: The elections in 2014 and the one after the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984 didn’t follow any pattern across the country. Achcha din, Sab ka saath saak ka vikaas campaign worked for the BJP in 2014. But, it won’t have any impact this time. This time it is different, the Modi wave doesn’t exist.
NewsCentral24x7: In 2018, there were communal riots in Asansol. Even this year, there were attempts to instigate tension. What is the CPI (M)’s approach and how is the party trying to reach out to both the communities in the constituency?
Gouranga Chatterjee: Last year, a violent atmosphere was created in Asansol. Our MLA Runu Dutta informed the police when the situation started getting ugly. He asked the police to take immediate action. But, due to the inaction of the police authorities, the violence spread out across the town. Secondly, this year many people shut their shops during Ram Navami. When I asked them, many people said that they were putting the shutters down as a mark of protest. So, people are raising their voices against this hatred too.
Our party organisation is running a serious campaign throughout the year against this divisive environment. Both Trinamool and BJP are indulging in competitive communalism. We are speaking to the mine workers as well. And we have observed that when people belonging to different religions work together, they share water and resources and communal harmony is maintained. In an industrial town like Asansol, such an orchestrated communal design won’t be very successful for long.