People Say That Police Is The Khaki Trinamool Cadre: CPI(M) Bankura Candidate Amiya Patra In Exclusive Interview With NewsCentral24x7
"We are observing the reactions of the voters here. This time Trinamool workers are not in a position to capture booth in Bankura."
Bankura has traditionally been considered as a Communist Party of India (Marxist) — CPI(M) — bastion. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, actress and Trinamool Congress leader Moon Moon Sen defeated nine-time MP Basudeb Acharya by a margin of 98,506 votes. The Left is now attempting to regain its hold and fielded heavyweight Amiya Patra.
Patra, a CPI(M) central committee member, is confident of emerging victorious against Trinamool’s Subrata Mukherjee and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dr Subhas Sarkar. He spoke to NewsCentral24x7 on several issues, including the BJP’s rise in West Bengal, employment and the water crisis in the constituency. Bankura votes on May 12.
NewsCentral24x7: The Congress hasn’t fielded a candidate in Bankura. There’s a fear among the local leaders that the Congress party’s vote share might shift to the Trinamool or BJP and the CPI (M) won’t benefit. Your comments.
Amiya Patra: In the last elections, the Congress party got 22,000 votes only, that is 1.72 per cent. Now, I think most of the Congress vote would be cast in favour of the Left front because they have no candidate here.
NewsCentral24x7: Trinamool replaced its candidate Moon Moon Sen with Subrata Mukherjee. Do you think the battle is more difficult this time as Mukherjee is a prominent state leader?
Amiya Patra: Both are same. I am talking with my voters that last time you cast your vote in favour of Moon Moon, not for you, not for the country, not for your fellowmen, not for the unemployed youth, not for the farmers who are suffering, you voted for Moon Moon Sen. Now, I feel all of you this time should cast your vote for restoration of democracy, for the future of your sons, and daughters, etc. for future of country’s economy, for future for peace, tranquility and communal harmony. So, decide to cast your vote on the basis of reasons, not emotions.
NewsCentral24x7: There is a severe water crisis in Bankura. The Trinamool candidate Subrata Mukherjee has mentioned in his campaign and recent interviews that as a minister he has introduced a scheme which has solved the problems of the area to a large extent. Do you think Mukherjee’s claims and work as a state minister will help the Trinamool regain this seat?
Amiya Patra: First, even before the Trinamool came to power in 2011, the people here used to drink this water which Mukherjee is talking about in his campaigns. This is nothing new. Second, this is a Central government project. In 2012, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh came to Bankura and publicly handed over a letter allocating Rs 11 crores for drinking water projects in this district. So, it is not at all a state project. Subrata Mukherjee cannot take credit for the success of this water supply project.
NewsCentral24x7: There’s a vast majority of farmers in your constituency. All the parties are trying to get their support. Do you think the farmers will vote for the CPI (M) here?
Amiya Patra: Yes. The voters of this constituency mostly belong to rural area and farming community also. In every village, we are speaking to the farmers about the difficulties that they have to face due to low selling price of their products coupled with an increase in the price of agricultural inputs and the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (during 2014 Lok Sabha polls) that the income of the farmers will be doubled if he came to power. Every farmer realises that Modi has done nothing and the state government has done nothing. Even when they announce the minimum support price for paddy or potato or other agricultural products, the farmers don’t get these prices.
NewsCentral24x7: If you represent this constituency in Parliament, what are the initiatives that you will take to ensure that the farmers here get better income?
Amiya Patra: If I am not elected, we [CPI(M)] will mobilise farmers as a part of our programme to organise a movement to ensure that they get the Minimum Support Price for their products. If the people of Bankura elect me, then it is an advantage to discuss and expedite these issues within the Parliament and outside the Parliament also.
NewsCentral24x7: There are Naxal-affected areas in Bankura constituency. Some villagers have decided not to cast their votes in protest against the democratic process too. What do you have to say about this?
Amiya Patra: We have tried to reach out to them and to talk to them so that they participate in this democratic process. This issue isn’t huge.
NewsCentral24x7: 19 factories have shut down in Bankura in the last eight years. The educated youth in the area have to go out looking for jobs or remain unemployed here. How can the industries be revived in Bankura?
Amiya Patra: People believe that as long as Mamata Banerjee is in power, no industrialists will come to the state for setting up industries. Second, the law and order situation in the state is very very bad. People say that police is the Khaki Trinamool cadre; Police are Trinamool cadre wearing the uniform.
I have also received information that the Police Information Bureau got to know that in this constituency, the Trinamool candidate will be defeated and Inspector Bankura PS called a meeting with all Trinamool leaders in his chamber to fix up alternate strategies to fix this defeat. This is the role of the police. So, the situation here is such that if any investor comes to Bankura, the Trinamool people will pressurise him to give money. Who will save him? What is his protection? Police will say nothing when Trinamool people do such illegal things. So, no industrialist will come to West Bengal. This party drove Tata away from here. So, this is a bad message in India and abroad also. This is a real problem and most of the young people are forced to go to other states for jobs. Migration is a real problem.
NewsCentral24x7: What are the other issues concerning the voters of Bankura?
Amiya Patra: All the issues which are mentioned in our manifesto are relevant here. There are some specific local issues as well. Most of the tribal hostels are closed. In the tribal areas, Mamata Banerjee distributed some instruments for dancing. People are raising questions about income and want avenues to earn money. They want to understand why the tribal youth are unemployed and are not getting jobs. They want to know why they are are not getting 100 days (of work) in MGNREGS. Now, attempts are also being made to remove tribal people from the jungles. All these issues are discussed in areas like Jangalmahal, and the tribals are annoyed with both the BJP and Trinamool.
NewsCentral24x7: During all the phases until now, multiple instances of booth rigging have been reported. In Bankura, the panchayat polls didn’t take place in a free and fair manner last year. Do you think that poll violence would be a significant issue this time as well?
Amiya Patra: I am proud of our people of West Bengal because they react in an organised manner. They have resolved to not vote for Trinamool because they looted our votes during the last Panchayat polls. This is a kind gesture that they have shown.
In almost all the villages, people are talking about the Panchayat elections and how polling stations were looted and rigged. They are speaking about their rights also — this is very good; these people will restore democracy. Few leaders cannot restore democracy, cannot prevent the attack on democracy. When people raise their voices against these issues, it is good. We are observing the reactions of the voters here. This time Trinamool workers are not in a position to capture booth in Bankura.
NewsCentral24x7: Now, we are reaching the last phases of the polls, do you think not allying with the Congress party has harmed the CPI(M) in West Bengal?
Amiya Patra: The situation is different in our district because here they vote share is negligible. But, in the case of Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur, etc… Even in Kolkata and closer to Kolkata, the vote share of the Congress party is between 12-40 per cent on an average. In that case, it would have been advantageous for the alliance to pull the anti-BJP and anti-Trinamool votes.
NewsCentral24x7: You mean it would have been better to form an alliance?
Amiya Patra: There are two different narratives. Some people advocated that we, the Left people, should fight alone whatever it may be. This is one narrative. Another narrative is that the anti-BJP and anti-Trinamool votes should not have been divided. So that no chance, no advantage should be given to the BJP and Trinamool.
NewsCentral24x7: In 2014 elections, the BJP managed to win just two seats in West Bengal. After five years, they seem to be in a much better position in the state, what has changed in this period?
Amiya Patra: As far as Bankura is concerned, most of the people are ready to vote against the Trinamool. Now, they are looking for an alternative party which is strong enough to defeat Trinamool. If in a pocket, people consider the BJP as the strong force then the votes will go in favour of the BJP. And where people feel that we are the alternative, they will vote for us. For the people, the only factor is that they don’t want to vote for the Trinamool. The anti-Trinamool votes basically will decide our fate.
NewsCentral24x7: You are correct that an anti-Trinamool sentiment is prevalent in some parts of the state. But, some people in West Bengal feel that Modi might be the prime minister again, in such a case they are looking at the BJP as a strong alternative and not the CPI(M) or Congress party. What is the CPI(M) doing to stop the BJP in the state?
Amiya Patra: First, the BJP will not come to power in the Centre again. Second, in West Bengal, a few people, a few leaders (of Trinamool), sitting MPs (of Trinamool) have joined the BJP, others are waiting to join the BJP. These are the people who are notorious and have looted sand, coal, forest produce and even the fund allocated for the poor in Panchayats. The voters are against these people irrespective of the party.
The voters think that if they vote for BJP, and Trinamool votes are drastically reduced, then these remaining notorious people from the Trinamool will also join the BJP. Third, they are talking about the corruption perpetrated by Trinamool leaders also. In the last five years, Modi promised that he would take proper action against the culprits of Sharada and Narada cases. But, he has done nothing. So, how can they believe that if Modi comes to power again, he will take steps to curb corruption? These issues are being discussed in many places.
We are appealing to the followers of Trinamool and reminding them that TMC leaders and TMC workers have tortured people. They (Trinamool) are corrupt; they need shelter, and for that reason, they are going to join the BJP.
The people in the state have voted for Mamata earlier because they wanted a change. And they have waited for five years, six years and severs years for Mamata to deliver. Now they are frustrated. Now they have two choices, the CPI(M) and the BJP. We are asking people to not vote for corrupt people and those who support and give shelter to corrupt individuals like Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh, etc. We are appealing to all those people in West Bengal who are fighting to protect our democracy against corruption and looting of votes, to stand with us.
NewsCentral24x7: Will the CPI (M) be a part of a post-poll alliance which includes the Trinamool to stop BJP from assuming power at Centre?
Amiya Patra: Our party will decide that in a post-election situation. But, one point I may tell you that we cannot support a government in which Trinamool is also a partner. We cannot help Trinamool because it will send a wrong message to the people of West Bengal.
NewsCentral24x7: Your biggest contender is Trinamool’s Subrata Mukherjee or BJP’s Dr Subhas Sarkar?
Amiya Patra: Our party will be number one, let them decide who will emerge as the number two here.