The West Bengal Assembly election is currently in the news. Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders are quitting the party and joining BJP. It seems that only Mamata Banerjee will be left in the party at the time of election.
(Laughs). Yes, that may be correct. For the last three decades, there is no democracy in West Bengal. During the Emergency, there was the dictatorship of Chief Minister Siddharth Shankar Ray. Then the Communists came to power, whose aim has always been to subvert democracy even though they came to power through democratic means. To get rid of Leftists, the only hope with the State’s people was Mamata Banerjee's leadership as we (BJP) lacked organisational abilities in Bengal at that time. The masses knew that she would never make “Sonar Bangal”, but she was the only option available to them to escape from the stranglehold of Communists, Futanta Kadai Theke Jwalanta Agune (From frying pan to fire). It’s now that the BJP has emerged as a strong organised force in the State. The people of Bengal are witnessing how the rest of the nation is progressing under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and India is emerging strong on the international platform too. However, West Bengal has been devoid of democracy and good governance for decades. Over the last 45 years, the Centre and the State were ruled by different political parties. Successive State Governments have always blamed the Centre for bad governance in the State. Now, the State hopes that through BJP they will be able to witness the development in Bengal. Thus, they are joining the party.
BJP has been a cadre-based party since its initial days. In Bengal itself, the party has had a vibrant legacy of great leaders like Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Will influx of leaders of other political parties not push BJP’s dedicated cadre to the margins?
When a political party grows, the aspirations of the people also increases, and re-adjustments have to be made. For decades after Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed, we never came to power. Slowly we progressed. After decades of struggle, we came to power in various States and at the Centre more than once. The people of West Bengal could not support BJP, as earlier we lacked strong organisational abilities in the State. This situation worsened after Communists came to power. We have lost more than 130 of our party cadres in the State, who were mercilessly killed. The people of the State now want to get rid of this politics of hooliganism. Look at Tripura, once we used to get only seven per cent votes, but now we are in power with almost 50 per cent votes, and the Government is functioning very efficiently.
In West Bengal, even 6th Pay Commission hasn’t been implemented yet, but in Tripura, the 7th Pay Commission is implemented. We are successfully resolving all the mess created by 25 years of Communist rule in Tripura by inducting people of other parties into our fold. Similar is the case in Assam, where top leaders of BJP were earlier with other parties. Now, these leaders are running the State Government dexterously. So the point is that it's the party mechanism that adjusts members of other parties in our cadre and delivers governance. And many people who join us from other parties do so by analysing our political ideology and governance model. We are successful as we give responsibility to them. It all depends on their calibre. And this is how we will implement our plan in West Bengal, too.
Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement finally resolved due to the BJP-ruled Centre and the Supreme Court's historical intervention. However, in Bengal, Shri Ram is being projected as an outsider and chanting Jai Shri Ram has become a hate speech. Why?
This is the side-effect of 1000 years of colonisation, particularly the last 200 years, we had undergone. The people of Bengal were most affected by the colonial propaganda as the capital of British India was located in Calcutta for a long time. This inculcated their minds with colonised mental slavery and uprooted many English-educated people from their cultural roots. The highly tech-savvy young generation now realises how badly they were affected by colonial propaganda and acknowledged their cultural roots. So it might take some time to eliminate the mental colonisation. The British rule was soon followed by the rule of Communists who demoralised the people about their culture. In between, some great nationalists became active like Prafulla Chandra Ray. However, lack of strong organisational cadre meant that the Communist propaganda demoralised the people a lot. A renaissance is the need of the hour in Bengal, which most of the State people understand, especially the youth. From when did chanting Jai Shri Ram become a criminal offence? In every household of Bengal, you will find Shri Ram. Just like how the Britishers were afraid of Vande Mataram and brutally tortured anyone chanting Vande Mataram, the current regime is similarly scared of Jai Shri Ram.
So will the current regime in the State pass a resolution against this?
This Government already passed a resolution challenging the Ordinance passed by the Central Government to which we responded with Jai Shri Ram slogans while marching towards the Secretariat.
By your admission, the BJP didn't have organisational abilities to strengthen itself in the State in the past. Is the party now strong enough to form Government in the State?
Communists had a strong cadre-based party in the State. Even today they have people committed to their ideology and cadres comprise seven per cent vote share. Despite not much electoral success, the BJP has continuously strengthened its base and cadre in the State. We have worked and prepared our strategy at booth level organisation. Today, BJP is the only strong cadre-based party in the State with almost one or two cadres every booth. It is now
capable of coming to power and forming Government in Bengal.
On the one hand, the BJP says that it is strengthening its cadre base in West Bengal by welcoming leaders of other political parties into its fold. On the other hand, TMC says that it's a sign that their party is getting rid of the trash. What do you have to say about this?
Those who are being termed as trash have been the face of TMC and were party stalwarts for years. If this is how they describe their earlier leaders, then West Bengal's people will throw the entire trash in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, the BJP is taking maximum benefit from these experienced leaders from other political parties. This is visible in the increasing support generated by the BJP at the grassroots level.
According to Didi, this is the result of ED and CBI investigations?
If this is the case, then why only TMC is frightened? Why not CPM and Congress? This means that TMC members are involved in large-scale corruption in the State like coal mining, cattle smuggling, sand mafia. There is an organised syndicate of TMC engaged in this. We have nothing to do with this, and even after joining BJP, they are being summoned for inquiry. The Supreme Court monitors this entire activity. TMC politicians are corrupt so that they will come under judicial investigation.
It's being alleged that BJP is taking mileage out of the political murders of its cadre. How do you respond to this?
What does political mileage mean? Can't we even express our outrage over the brutal killings of our party members? Do we not live in a democratic nation? Mamata Banerjee used to do it when she was in Opposition – she used to bring corpses to Kolkata whenever political murder occurred in Jangalmahal and North Bengal. We never did such politics over dead bodies. But we will register our dissent over the gruesome killings of our innocent party members through protests. We respect the family of the deceased party member and take complete responsibility for them. Amit Bhai (Shah) has announced that Rs 5 lakh will be given to the family of murdered party members. Our party members are harassed by registering fake cases against them like keeping illegal arms, drugs peddling and what not. On a positive note, our party members are still firm to bring about a change.
There are many people-oriented schemes like CAA which have not been implemented in West Bengal. So how is BJP planning to approach the public of Bengal on this vital issue?
CAA is the biggest issue in West Bengal. The intensity of the anti-CAA protests was highest in Bengal, where large-scale damage was done to public properties like burning of railway stations. This kind of hooliganism was done mostly by illegal infiltrators who are the vote-bank of Didi. We will implement CAA. It was the vision and mission of our founding father Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee that the refugees affected by the Partition must be re-settled with honour. We will honour the sacrifice Dr Mookerjee made for this noble cause. The people of Bengal have faith that this will be done only by the Government of BJP in the State.
Didi's reason for not implementing welfare and health schemes of the Central Government is that the State Government is already implementing similar schemes. Do you think there exists a communication gap between the Government and the people?
There is no communication gap. The Mamata Government is doing this intentionally as it fears that implementing such schemes will benefit BJP. We secured 40 per cent vote share even without implementing the schemes. People of the State are aware of the benefits of the Narendra Modi Government's welfare schemes, which is building houses, toilets, and providing drinking water for the needy sections of society. Rest of the nation is getting benefitted by the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, but not West Bengal. People now realise that the current regime of Didi is the hurdle, as it is preventing them from getting benefit from these public welfare schemes of the Centre. Thus voting her out of power is the only solution.
The TMC cadres are attacking senior leaders of the BJP in the State. What's your take on this?
Yes, this is a problem. And this is not a new phenomenon; mainstreaming violence in Indian politics was done by the Communists, especially in all the three States where they ruled – West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. We have been the greatest victims of political violence across the States. People now understand this fact. The only solution to end political violence is that a nationalist government should come to power.
It's a fact that political violence is the legacy of the Communists in India. Subsequently, the more aggressive violent strategy was implemented by TMC to counter the violence of CPM. Will the BJP also tread the same path?
Absolutely not. Had that been the case, we would have reacted sharply as we have a strong organisational cadre at the grassroots level. But we didn't as we believe in countering the violence democratically. Take the case of Tripura, the State which saw violence unleashed by Communists for 25 years, but now everything is normal and peaceful after our Government came to power. When I visited Tripura to attend the oath-taking ceremony, I saw a large crowd on the street, which proved that people have faith and enthusiasm for our party. Similarly, the people of West Bengal too expect peace from the BJP. We rule multiple States while maintaining the rule of law and will deliver good governance in Bengal too if we are voted to power.
BJP has assured granting citizenship to Hindus and persecuted minorities escaping the neighbouring nation. How is the party going to deal with illegal infiltrators in the State?
We are committed to giving citizenship to those who were sacrificed for India's tragic Partition, who also fought for the freedom struggle. It's our moral duty. The rest of the illegal infiltrators will be identified and will be treated as per the rule of law.
West Bengal has a large number of Rohingya Muslims living illegally. They have now procured voter ID cards. Last year, NIA arrested six members of Al-Qaeda in the State. The murderer of Sheikh Mujibir Rahman lived for 20 years in the State. It seems Bengal has become a haven for terrorists.
All this started when the Communists came to power in the State. They supported the Partition and creation of Pakistan. The reason is their anti-national ideology. They cannot allow the functioning of a nation-state in a peaceful, progressive way. Thus, they lost their relevance everywhere in the world. The issue of illegal infiltration and the rise of extremism in the State is adversely affecting the indigenous cultural ethos of Bengal. Communal riots are happening in almost all districts of West Bengal. It is facing problems like Illegal arms and bomb manufacturing facilities. Cross-border terrorists are caught daily in Birbhum, Malda, Murshidabad, and other districts of the State. Not only restricted to Bangladeshi terrorists, West Bengal is now also a haven for North-East insurgents. The current regime has no ideology or strategy to resolve these issues. Around 4 to 5 lakh illegal Rohingya infiltrators were included in the voter list this year who constitute the vote bank of TMC. We have registered our complaint with the Election Commission to inquire about this issue and check the alarming rise of illegal infiltrators getting registered as legal voters in the State's sensitive border areas.
Bangladesh is sending back Rohingya refugees or asking the Government of Myanmar to rehabilitate them. The United Nations is also intervening in the matter. Is BJP trying to mount pressure on Mamata Banerjee Government on this issue on similar lines?
Yes definitely. While Bangladesh is not willing to take back Rohingyas, they are being welcomed in India as they are the potential vote-bank of TMC. Their political leaders are rehabilitating them. Rohingyas have settled as far as in Jammu & Kashmir and are now indulging in anti-social activities. As the border of West Bengal is not protected, the situation is getting vulnerable across the nation. Thus, for national security, removing TMC Government out of the power and voting a nationalist government in the State is need of the hour.
Do you think there are internal feuds within the party? Don’t you think having a popular face leading the party will help it in the upcoming election?
The people of the State have made their mind to vote us to power. This time we have planned to gain 200-plus seats in the Vidhan Sabha. It’s TMC which cannot survive without the face of Didi. Without her, the party falls. However, BJP has an ideological base, as well as a cadre base. The party works on the principle of collective leadership. We have a working mechanism; anyone from our party can deliver good governance once responsibility is assigned. A booth-level party worker is as nationalist as the senior party leaders are. Our party members work from grassroots and progress in the party hierarchy. Thus people see how we work and then vote us. BJP’s political ideology is same across different States. We have successfully delivered corruption-free and violence-free governance in other States and wish the same for West Bengal. The people of Bengal are intelligent. They are witnessing how we have developed strong organisation in the State for the common man's welfare.