West Bengal

West Bengal Assembly Elections | Those who believe in democracy support the Samyukta Morcha, says Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

File photo of West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

File photo of West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

The Samyukta Morcha is providing a real alternative to the people of West Bengal against the competitive communalism of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, says West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who has played a crucial role in forging the alliance of the Congress, the Left and the Indian Secular Front. The Congress is contesting 92 seats.

We are almost midway through the polls in West Bengal. How is this election is turning out to be?

We have never witnessed an Assembly election in West Bengal where the Bharatiya Janata Party has tried to create a divide in the electorate through its communal propaganda in such a blatant manner. On the other side of the political spectrum is the Trinamool Congress under which the people of the State have suffered for so many years.

It is interesting to see the Trinamool Congress, which has stifled democracy in the State, telling the people that they are fighting for restoration of democracy. Democracy and secularism are an integral part of the culture of West Bengal, and we represent that force. Those who believe in democracy and want to protect the State from the communal aggression have joined us, the Samyukta Morcha. This force that was kept away from the mainstream media narrative has not only been able to make its mark but is also getting the support of people. The people are responding to the campaign of the Samyukta Morcha and the biggest example was our rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds.

It is a high-pitched campaign with both TMC and BJP pulling out all the stops...

Again, this is an extraordinary election if we look at the manner in which the Prime Minister and Home Minister are coming to West Bengal. Both the Home Minister and Prime Minister are very busy individuals, but they are coming to West Bengal regularly, almost addressing street corner meetings. Bengal polls are their biggest agenda and we all saw how 22 jawans lost their lives fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Other than that, both the BJP and TMC are involved in mudslinging and the real issues relating to polls have been forgotten.

You say the TMC has stifled democracy in West Bengal. What do you mean by this?

Anyone who has lived in West Bengal knows about it. For a specific example, the panchayat polls of 2018 is a clear instance when the ruling party did not allow the Opposition to file nominations. On almost 20,000 seats at the three-tier panchayat level, the Trinamool Congress did not allow candidates of the Opposition to contest. On the day of the panchayat polls, 80 to 100 people lost their lives. If the BJP wants to ensure there is a Congress-mukt Bharat, the Trinamool Congress wants an Opposition-free West Bengal — both parties have the same objective. That is why we say that the TMC and BJP are two faces of the same coin.

The issue of defections has become an important talking point in this election. What do you think?

Defections were never a part of the politics in West Bengal till 2011. It is the Trinamool Congress that started the politics of defection right from its bid to assume power by trying to poach MLAs of the opposition parties. Even in 2016, when 44 of our MLAs won the polls, the Trinamool Congress started engineering defections. More than 20 of these MLAs have joined the Trinamool Congress — either lured by favour or being coerced by fear using the State machinery. Such defections were carried out at the mirco-level in the civic bodies and the Opposition lost control over all them.

Now when the BJP is engineering defections in the Trinamool Congress, poaching ministers and other key leaders and MLAs from the Trinamool Congress, all I will way say is that the TMC is being paid back in the same coin.

The Congress has forged alliances with the Left parties in the past, but it did not yield the desired outcome. What makes you hopeful this time?

The earlier alliances were half-baked and half-hearted. Even in 2016, the difference of votes was only 30 lakh which means that had we got just 46 votes more in every polling booth we would have won. This time we have been able to forge an alliance based on discussions which were started much before the polls.

We are campaigning on the basis of a common minimum plan. Along with Left parties we have also accommodated the Indian Secular Front. Our message to the electorate is clear — people should vote against divisive and other forces that are a threat to democratic and secular values, which are the bed rock of the culture of West Bengal. The people are intelligent enough to make a distinction.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 1:16:54 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/west-bengal-assembly/west-bengal-assembly-polls-those-who-believe-in-democracy-support-the-samyukta-morcha-says-bengal-congress-chief/article34283413.ece