Says though she does not agree with Centre, strike not the way as it hits people’s livelihood
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said here on Wednesday that she would request the Election Commission to ban those political parties that call for a strike.
“I think [the] Election Commission also must play a role. I will ask them to ban the political party that calls for a strike,” she told journalists at the Secretariat on the first day of the two-day nation-wide general strike called by 11 Central trade unions.
Ms. Banerjee said her party did not support even “a single” policy of the Centre but calling for a strike “is not the way to protest” as it affected people’s livelihood.
“We were the first party to withdraw support from the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government. We never supported the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel, LPG [cooking gas] and the decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail,” she said.
The decision to quit the government was a major decision taken because of the “social commitment” of the party, Ms. Banerjee said even as she asked political parties to disengage from the “politics of strikes.”
In an oblique reference to the Left parties who supported the strike, she said: “They cannot even bring a no-confidence motion [against the UPA government]. I know their guts.”
Two months after withdrawing support, the Trinamool Congress had sought the support of the Left parties for bringing in a no-confidence motion against the UPA government in Parliament in November 2012. The motion was rejected as no political party, including the Left, supported it.
Asked whether the strike was the last resort of the working classes, Ms. Banerjee said that it was not the workers who decide to call for a strike. “Now the leaders only decide to call for a strike for their own political existence.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition criticised Ms. Banerjee’s remark that she would ask the Election Commission to ban parties that call a strike, pointing out that it was the Trinamool Congress that had called the most number of strikes when in the Opposition.
Shyamal Chakraborty, State president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the Trinamool Congress had called 21 strikes in the State between 2007 and 2011.
“It is most unfortunate that we have a Chief Minister who is not aware of the Constitution. It [the right to strike] is one of the fundamental rights of the people. She can consult the Constitution and if the need arises or if she does not find the time, she could take the help of government lawyers.”
Asked by journalists whether such an attitude of the State government — to take away the right to strike — was undemocratic, he said it was both “undemocratic and fascist.”
He claimed that Ms. Banerjee’s remarks showed she was ‘frustrated’ by the massive response to the strike call, despite ‘threats’ issued by her government to take stern administrative action against traders who kept their shops closed.
Congress general secretary Omprakash Mishra said the right of the people to strike could not be taken away though strikes might adversely affect the economy.
“Had the right of strike been taken away, the Trinamool Congress would have never come into existence. It embraced and pursued the politics of strike long before it came to power in the State,” he said.
‘Let people decide’
The president of the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rahul Sinha, also maintained that calling for a strike was a democratic right and it must be left to the people to decide whether or not to support it.