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Interview: Trinamool Provides Leaders, Workers and Voters to BJP in Bengal: CPI (M) Krishnanagar Candidate Shantanu Jha

In an exclusive chat with NewsCentral24x7, he said that both the BJP and Trinamool have never raised the issues related to farmers in the country.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Shantanu Jha is confident that the farmers of Krishnanagar will support him this time as he understands their struggle better than Trinamool’s Mahua Moitra and BJP’s Kalyan Choubey in Krishnanagar. An agriculture sciences professor, Jha is contesting the elections from this Parliamentary constituency for the second time in a row after being defeated by Trinamool’s Tapas Paul in the last elections. He got about 29 per cent votes while Paul had garnered 35 per cent votes.

In an exclusive interview with NewsCentral24x7, Jha spoke about a range of issues including the communal politics played by the BJP and sculptors of the Krishnanagar constituency. Edited excerpts:

NewsCentral24x7: The BJP is focusing on this constituency, the Trinamool has also changed the candidate — Mahua Moitra replaced Tapas Paul — what are the issues based on which you think that the people will vote for the CPI (M)?

Shantanu Jha: Our politics is based on principles. We have emphasised on a few things nationally which are relevant for Krishnanagar voters as well. Saving democracy is our first goal. In Panchayat polls, Trinamool didn’t even allow people to contest in the elections. From candidates to results, nothing was left, everything was looted. Money was also involved. There was a purpose behind the introduction of Panchayat systems and it has been destroyed in West Bengal.

Krishnanagar
Left Front’s roadshow and crowdfunding in support of Shantanu Jha, Krishnanagar (Photo: Twitter/@SUNDARmyth)

Second, unemployment is at an all-time high. In West Bengal, industries have been destroyed after 2011. If you see, farmers in Krishnanagar have kept their onions in sacks, ask about the cost and they will inform that one kilogram onion costs just Rs 4-5. This is the condition of farmers in West Bengal.

Next, Trinamool, as you have mentioned, has changed its candidate. The previous MP was in jail for getting involved in a chit fund scam. The people are poor here and have struggled to earn each penny. These individuals were lured to keep their money in chit funds. Trinamool was the only party which benefited due to this scam. What is the CBI doing? Mukul Roy joined the BJP on deputation. I often say that the Trinamool leaders are now sitting on a cot and will join any other party whenever they get the opportunity. I tell the Trinamool leaders that they are the BJP’s supply chain. From leaders to workers to voters, they are supplying everything to the BJP.

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If you analyse the election results post-2014, you will notice that the BJP is in a fluid state. Sometimes they lose some votes and sometimes they gain some votes. This is due to the Trinamool.

Neither the BJP nor the Trinamool has ever raised the issues related to farmers in this country. In this constituency, there are many farmers who might have sided with the Trinamool before, but they trust only the Left now. The Trinamool knows how to snatch and loot votes only. The party has lost the confidence of the voters.

Krishnanagar
CPI (M) members campaign at Krishnanagar Lok Sabha Constituency in support of Shantanu Jha. (PC: Twitter/@CPIM_WESTBENGAL)

NewsCentral24x7: But Central Forces will be there during the Lok Sabha elections.

Shantanu Jha: Yes, Central Forces will be there. But, we have definite information that the nodal officers are playing some role at the behest of chief of our state (Mamata Banerjee) so that the Trinamool can take over the booths.

There are question marks over the role of police and bureaucrats. Even media persons in the state say that they are being paid to hide the truth. Everything is cooked, there’s only one word to describe everything: ‘dangerous’. Corruption is rampant across the state.

NewsCentral24x7: There are many sculptors in Krishnanagar. If you become the MP, what are the steps that you will take to ensure that they are not neglected?

Shantanu Jha: The work of the artists of this town has to be showcased before the global market. How can that be done? It needs to be highlighted. Infrastructure is important. Access to capital, access to skill and access to markets is required; these are three issues. Access to capital or credit is a serious challenge that both farmers and artists in this town face though they have access to skills as it is inherited (by the artists) here. Then, access to the market is also important, which an individual can’t do in isolation. As a parliamentarian, in my opinion, whoever gets elected should take a proactive role in bringing these artists in front of the global market. Shilpigram (a market for the artists) can help and a tourism hub can be developed through which Ghurni can be promoted.

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NewsCentral24x7: Krishnanagar is mainly dependant on agriculture. How do you think you can provide employment opportunities to the hundreds of educated youth coming out of the local colleges here?

Shantanu Jha: One interesting point is that there was a sugar mill in this town. Now, 8,000 acres of land are just lying there as the factory is defunct. First, in my opinion, this factory has to be revived here. It will automatically open up employment opportunities. Second, connectivity needs to be improved. When Mamata Banerjee was the Railway Minister and Satyabrata Mookherjee was the MP here, they could have taken the initiative. Moreover, Krishnanagar-Karimpur road has to be widened for easy access to the border areas, revamping of this old town is also required.

NewsCentral24x7: The BJP is seen as the main opposition party against the Trinamool here.

Santanu Jha: The BJP is not countering the Trinamool. Previously, only once the BJP candidate was elected from this seat and it was with the support of the Trinamool. So, they aren’t really opposing each other here.

Secondly, the BJP is also inciting violence in certain places like the Trinamool. In fact, people are aware that they have created a mess in Tripura.

NewsCentral24x7: But, people aren’t really aware.

Shantanu Jha: I don’t think so. There are recordings, video, mobiles everywhere. BJP doesn’t have a strong voter base. They get votes that are transferred from other parties. I have travelled and noticed that in some places they are doing well because Trinamool votes are being transferred. At the national level, it is visible that the BJP is eroding and it is wrong to say that the voters of this constituency don’t have all this information.

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NewsCentral24x7: Why is the CPI (M) not able to counter the communal politics played by the BJP here?

Shantanu Jha: You go to the Muslim mohallas and they say that they understand what the BJP is doing. That’s why they have chosen the CPI (M) as their friend. Even the Hindus want peace because they want a safe future for their children. The BJP has shown its ugly side to the countrymen.

Shantanu Jha
CPI(M) supporters campaigning for Shantanu Jha in Krishnanagar

NewsCentral24x7: Mahua Moitra v/s your contest is seen as a battle between the young and old. How do you think you will win the perception battle?

Shantanu Jha: It isn’t between the young and old. The young are always welcome. The thing is whoever represents this constituency needs to have some core competency. Her core competency is in shares and asset management. I’m very poor in all that. Besides being a politician, I’m a farm scientist, I have a very strong connection with farmers. I have a few cases registered against me due to my involvement in farm protests. The farmers will vote for me.

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