There is an uncanny resemblance in the governance styles of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee although they come from different parties and oppose each other, says Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. He says both Mr. Modi and Ms. Banerjee are interested in self-promotion and seek to extend the tenure of bureaucrats who have been subservient to the ruling party. Excerpts:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws. What is your reaction to this development?
We from the Congress party welcome the development . This is indeed the victory of the agitating farmers. The BJP government has been constrained to bow down to the nationwide protest in support of the farmers. Since the very beginning, the Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi overwhelmingly supported the farmers’ movement and led tractor rallies in Punjab and Haryana. In the upcoming session of the Parliament, we are eagerly waiting for the Union Government to withdraw these legislations. We may also seek compensation for the farmers who were martyred during this long agitation.
As the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha you are opposing the policies of the BJP at the Centre, but in West Bengal you are critical of the Trinamool Congress government. Don’t you think that all Opposition should be united to take on the BJP?
Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee have same style of governance and have same political DNA . The Centre has just passed two ordinances that will allow it to extend the tenures of the Directors of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate from two years to five years. This is exactly what the Trinamool Congress government has been doing — extending the tenure of bureaucrats who have been subservient to the ruling party. Similarly, when it comes to self-promotion, both Mamata and Modi are never tired of advertising themselves at the cost of the government exchequer. There is an uncanny resemblance. So if Narendra Modi can parade on an Indian Air Force aircraft on an Expressway in Uttar Pradesh, there is no corner across of West Bengal where there are no photos, graffiti and posters of Mamata Banerjee.
What do you think of Trinamool Congress expanding its base in Tripura and Goa. Congress leaders are joining Trinamool Congress in large numbers in both the States?
Tripura is a very small State and with a significant Bengali population . The Trinamool Congress believes that it can make its presence felt in the State, and achieve the status of a national party. In Goa , the Trinamool Congress, which is deft at the art of political poaching, is trying its luck. West Bengal is the best example of political poaching where TMC slowly nibbled away at the Congress.
In both the States, there are some political vagabonds who have defected from the Congress and joined the TMC. There is a ploy of projecting Congress-M (Mamata). There is no harm in having political ambitions. But ambitions should not be bereft of logic or understanding of electoral arithmetic. Because of the attempts of the Trinamool Congress to split the electorate in Tripura and Goa, the BJP will be the beneficiary . Who knows, the BJP may have the last laugh in these small States once the Opposition vote is divided.
The Congress did not put a candidate against Mamata Banerjee in the Bhabanipur by polls. Why the animosity still?
Yes, we did not put up a candidate again her. On August 20, Mamata Banerjee participated in a meeting of Opposition parties convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi where it was decided that all Opposition parties will campaign on 11 important and sensitive issues. However, on September 6, after being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate, Trinamool MP and general secretary Abhishek Banerjee targeted the Congress. This indicates that there is a change in the strategy of TMC and they will go hammer and tongs against the Congress.
After the Assembly polls in West Bengal, the TMC has further strengthened its hold in the State. The Opposition, including the BJP, is losing the support base as evident in the recent bypolls.
There is no existence of Opposition in West Bengal at this moment. There was a vacuum created in the Opposition after the decimation of the Left and the Congress which was taken by the BJP. However, the politics of communal polarisation has its own life span. It is fast shrinking, particularly when common people are suffering from issues of life and livelihood. I feel that the time span of communal politics is going to be exhausted very soon, both in West Bengal and across India. One has to also realise that it is also because of the high-pitched campaign of the BJP during the West Bengal Assembly elections that Mamata Banerjee has been able to get this image of a national player.