Derek O’Brien, Trinamul Congress MP, says that his party is not bothered by the Modi government’s political vendetta against it. In an interview to Sreeparna Chakrabarty, Mr O’Brien claims that Mamata Banerjee is the only leader to have survived after coming out of the fold of a big party.
With senior leaders like Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Pal being arrested in the chit-fund case, do you think the Modi government is getting back at your party for your high-pitched protest against demonetisation and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sharing stage with Rahul Gandhi in the capital?
The fact that you ask this question implies what everyone thinks. Even a middle-school student would understand what’s going on here. Plain and simple political vendetta because Ms Banerejee spoke up against the draconian and ill-thought move of demonetisation announced on November 8 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
You think the pressure from the Centre will increase in the coming days?
I am not bothered about what they do or plan to do. We, in the Trinamul Congress, under Ms Banerjee have spearheaded many people’s movements in the last few decades. So let the Centre unleash its “caged parrot”... Yes, that’s what the Supreme Court called the CBI. Bring it on. This will only strengthen our resolve to fight on behalf of millions affected by “notebandi”. The economy has taken a beating and people across the board are facing an acute crisis.
Does the Trinamul Congress have plans to scale up its protests and campaign against the Modi government?
When we raised our voice against Modi babu and his hair-brained announcement over two months ago, we were the only voice of dissent. Today, more than 15 political parties are opposing the move. That’s a strong Opposition. The Trinamul Congress has held protests in nine states. Last week, all our MPs peacefully but effectively protested for five days in the capital. Parliament starts later in January. We are in touch with other parties. Civil society and the corporate world must also raise their voices. This is not the time to sit on the fence.
Do you see Ms Banerjee as a natural leader of an anti-BJP front for the 2019 polls?
Over the years, Ms Banerjee has a track record that is impeccable. Under her leadership, the Communists were overthrown after 34 years. Name me one leader who left the grand old party and survived on his/her own? Since Independence, no one has. You see others get subsumed by the parent party, form an alliance with them or go into oblivion. Ms Banerjee is the only one who has set her own benchmark. For “a cause” she called the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary or even allowed the Shiv Sena to join her march to Rashtrapati Bhavan. People make leaders and she has the support of millions of people.
The Trinamul Congress has been accused of violence and making mock issues like the presence of Army at toll plazas. What are your views?
It was never an Army versus Trinamul issue. Nor was it an Army versus state government issue. We have the highest regard for the armed forces — 200 per cent. It was an issue of federalism. Centre versus state. Don’t get drawn into the spins, the BJP and some of its cheerleaders in the media try to give these incidents.
Do you think it was a weak Opposition, which allowed the Narendra Modi government to get away with demonetisation?
Fifteen-plus parties meeting everyday before Parliament begins. That’s not weak. That’s strong. But, yes, the 8/10 unity strength quotient could have been 10/10. We will do all it takes to reach that level of Opposition unity. The Trinamul plays hard. We also know how to play as a team.
How far do you think the Modi government will go to target the Trinamul Congress?
Who cares! Try as they might, we will fight them. Politically.
Mr Bandyopadhyay has said that he has been arrested for his performance in Parliament. What do you think?
I will leave that to the judgment of your readers. The timing. The action. Isn’t it all too blatant?...