Election is about whether Narendra Modi has delivered on his promises: Derek O’ Brien

BJP is trying to convert the election into slogans because it doesn’t have answers to real questions, says the Trinamool Congress leader.

March 20, 2019 09:24 pm | Updated March 21, 2019 01:36 pm IST

Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’ Brien.

Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’ Brien.

Ahead of the general election, in which the All India Trinamool Congress faces a challenge on its home turf, West Bengal, from a strident BJP, the party’s Rajya Sabha member Derek O’ Brien speaks about Opposition unity, impact of the Pulwama terror attack and the BJP’s aggressive campaign in the State.

Opposition has reduced this battle to BJP versus all; would such a binary help BJP?

The Opposition has not reduced the election to Modi versus all. It is what BJP wants us to believe.

This election is about whether Modi has delivered on his promises on jobs, state of agriculture and so on. The BJP took a call on demonetisation, but did you deliver on the goal you set out for? The BJP is trying to convert the election into slogans and catchy advertising lines because it does not have answers to the real questions.

What will be the impact of the Pulwama tragedy and the Balakot airstrike?

Jobs, underperformance, demonetisation disaster, GST implementation, economy and not delivering on promises are the issues. The BJP is trying to use nationalism and patriotism to deflect attention from these.

It makes you sad and angry at the same time seeing Prime Minister Narendra Modi using photographs of the martyred 42 CRPF men as the backdrop at a rally and when you see a Delhi MP canvassing for votes in Army fatigues. The BJP is trying to prove its patriotism. We all know the history of the ideologues of the BJP, which did not participate in the freedom movement. And I don’t think it will impact a voter’s choice because the average Indian voter is intelligent to differentiate between an idea and gimmick. Right-thinking Indian citizens need not be lectured on patriotism.

The BJP has been aggressively expanding its footprint in Bengal to cut its losses in other States like Uttar Pradesh, what do you make of it?

The BJP has the hype machine in Bengal which it is using to the hilt.

I am a politician but also a student of politics. I am willing to concede that the Opposition space that for so long was occupied by the Congress and later by the Left is up for grabs. So, it is a fair target for the BJP.

The party can’t be an alternative to the Trinamool Congress. Even for candidates, it comes shopping to the Trinamool Congress. Even its campaign song in West Bengal mentions Trinamool Congress 55 times and our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee five times. We have always known that we are popular in Bengal and the BJP has only acknowledged that.

The Trinamool Congress has seen many defections recently including your MLA and MPs switching sides. Wouldn’t this affect you?

We have 224 MLAs, out of which one legislator has gone. We have 47 MPs: two got expelled and they knew six months in advance that they will not get ticket because ahead of the winter session, they were removed from the WhatsApp group for the MPs. So, obviously they went in search of a ticket.

There is a perception that the Trinamool Congress is trying to help the CPI(M) to counter the BJP in the State...

We lost 45,000 workers in the 34-year Left rule. So please perish this thought. We are taking on the BJP and the CPI(M) in Bengal and in few seats we are contesting the Congress.

At the national level we are with the Congress. We will fight all the three parties in Bengal. And importantly for the Bengal voter the choice is between an evil man and a woman who was born to slay that evil. The evil person gets his courage from hate. The woman gets her courage from love. That is the choice for the Bengali voter.

Will the 2019 election be fought entirely on national issues or will the individual State’s polity have a role to play?

It is going to be a summary of State elections.

The Congress will fight the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajashtan; we will fight them in West Bengal; the DMK in Tamil Nadu and so on.

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