Interview: Mamata Banerjee Gave BJP The Space To Come To West Bengal: CPI(M) MP Badaruddoza Khan
"The main problem is that people are afraid of booth-capturing by TMC goons — with the help of the policemen," he told NewsCentral24x7.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Badaruddoza Khan starts his day early. With the elections only a few days away, he spends his time meeting, talking and appealing the voters of Murshidabad to elect him again. What makes his task more critical is the fact that the Left party had won only two seats in 2014 Lok Sabha polls — Raiganj and Murshidabad — and this time, the Congress party is attempting to regain its hold over the constituency while the Trinamool Congress is also eyeing to open its account here.
Speaking to NewsCentral24x7, Khan discussed an array of issues, including BJP’s attempts at saffronisation, poll violence and the Congress-Left alliance breakup.
Here’s the excerpt:
NC24x7: Do you think the decision to not ally with the Congress party would benefit the CPI(M) in West Bengal?
Badaruddoza Khan: Initially, we told Congress to adjust with us, and they had agreed. But, later their leader broke this alliance. And, we had two opinions here. One idea of our comrades was that if we have an agreement with the Congress, some of their vote-share might shift to Trinamool. But, some comrades thought that the alliance might help, since Trinamool goons also attack Congress workers. Now, we will just have to wait for the results.
We are fighting alone here. I think we have a better chance here in this seat (Murshidabad constituency). A slight change is there — last time we were fighting against the Congress, this time we are fighting against Trinamool Congress.
NC24X7: So, you think Trinamool Congress opponent Abu Taher Khan is stronger than the Congress party candidate Abu Hena?
Badaruddoza Khan: Yes. Most of the Congress people have joined the TMC. Some of our people are also there, but most of the Congress workers are in Trinamool. But, some of their supporters and our supporters are also coming back from the TMC now. As a result of this, the Trinamool is losing ground. But, finally, we have to fight against the Trinamool. It is not a contest against Congress.
NC24X7: Besides writing to the Election Commission for more central forces, what are the steps that the CPI(M) is taking to ensure that free and fair polls take place in the state in the remaining phases?
Badaruddoza Khan: Actually, the main problem is that people are afraid of booth-capturing by TMC goons — with the help of the policemen. Here one major issue is that Trinamool goons are allied with the policemen and both looted the polling process during the Panchayat elections (2018). People are afraid of the police and Trinamool goons. This time we have conveyed our message to the Election Commission that it is “your duty to ensure free and fair elections and not our duty. You (EC) have to protect the right of the people.”
Actually, the police is responsible for this situation here. It is their duty to ensure that people can cast their votes. Police have also joined hands with the anti-socials. It is the first time in history; no such incident has taken place in India before. People have no confidence in the West Bengal Police.
NC24X7: But, the Trinamool leaders suggest that such incidents took place even when the Left party was ruling in the state. As per the TMC, incidents are reported more often now because the media is more active.
Badaruddoza Khan: No. It is not true. It had happened in some of the seats in 1978-79 when the Congress lost the total ground. Then some of the seats were uncontested. But, the votes were polled in those areas; at least in Zilla Parishad, at least in Panchayat Samiti, at least in Gram Panchayat, people could vote.
Now, there wasn’t any voting in Murshidabad district (during Panchayat polls). Nobody was allowed to file their nomination; this is the problem. Despite this fact, some people filed their nominations, then the police came in the ground, and they pressurised people to withdraw their nominations. During the Left’s time, this was never the case.
NC24X7: Has the CPI(M) become organisationally weak over the years after Mamata Banerjee formed government in West Bengal?
Badaruddoza Khan: Some differences are there. Some weakness is also there. It is due to the attack by the government and police. The government and anti-social elements keep attacking us all the time. Some of our cadres are also afraid of such attacks; the police even filed false cases against us like NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances). This is very unfortunate. People are afraid to join and support the CPI(M) openly. So many people are saying that “we will cast our vote in your favour, but we will not openly show our support”. Some people within the TMC, who attend the party meetings, and even give lectures (as Trinamool members) are saying that they will not tolerate this anymore. They say, “But we are afraid if we don’t leave then they will lodge a false complaint and arrest us”. Trinamool people are also afraid. Such is the situation in West Bengal.
NC24X7: Many voters in the constituency have complained that you were not accessible in the last five years.
Badaruddoza Khan: No this is the Trinamool’s campaign strategy. I was easily accessible to the people. Everybody can call me; I accept every call. Everybody can easily meet me for any kind of help. For instance, the National Relief Fund, supporting the physically disabled people in the constituency, or for any other reason, they could very easily come to me.
In spite of all that, you have to understand that an MP cannot always stay in his area. He has other work in the Parliament too; he has to fight there — at least he has to attend Parliament 90-100 days in a year. Then some committee meetings are also there for which one has to go. Rest of the time, one can remain at the constituency.
Are their (Trinamool’s) MPs always available? Are their MLAs always available? What is this “not available” thing that they (Trinamool) have started?
NC24X7: There are no sources of employment in Murshidabad, as a result of which out-migration is a big issue here. As an MP what have you done to create employment opportunities for the youth here?
Badaruddoza Khan: There are no industries in Murshidabad. There are zero industries. People are dependent fully on agriculture. Agriculture is not profitable. So, what will they do? They are migrating to Kerala or Mumbai or Chennai. The Government of West Bengal is doing nothing for them. No industry is coming here due to the land policy implemented by Mamata Banerjee. In West Bengal, there are no industries. So, they are going to Chennai, Saudi Arabia, etc. I have raised the issue in the Lok Sabha. Agriculture labourers and farmers are also not getting a fair price for their products, so what they will do? They are migrating for work and money; this is the fact.
NC24X7: Do you think you are facing a tougher fight this time because the Congress party is trying to win this seat again and Mamata Banerjee is also focusing a lot on this constituency?
Badaruddoza Khan: We are in a firm position here. TMC is trying to win this seat through backdoors by threatening people and by capturing some booths. If they fail to capture booths, they have no chance of winning this seat; I can say this.
NC24X7: What is the CPI(M) doing to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempts at creating a communal atmosphere in West Bengal?
Badaruddoza Khan: We have been fighting for so many years, and when we were in power for the last 34 years. At that time also we were fighting the BJP and saffronisation. At that time, there was no space for the BJP in West Bengal. But after the Left regime ended in 2011, the BJP came in West Bengal with the help of Mamata Banerjee, and she gave them space to come here. And it is Mamata Banerjee’s will that only she and the BJP can stay in the state. In Murshidabad, it isn’t a big problem like the other regions.