|‘I have no doubt about Miss Banerjee’s sincerity & commitment’|
|Gorkhaland to be umbilical link between Bengal, Assam: Jaswant|
11 April 2011: Veteran parliamentarian and BJP leader Mr Jaswant Singh had been camping in Darjeeling over the pastweek meeting GJMM (Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha) leaders and chalking out campaign schedules in the Hills which, though, had to be curtailed due to his ill-health. In a conversation with Anjan Chakraborty, the BJP MP from Darjeeling talks
about his assessment of the Assembly election 2011 in West Bengal. Excerpts:
Q: Your visit to Darjeeling this time is entirely because of the Assembly election in West Bengal. Where all are you going to campaign?
A: I would have gone to other areas but for sudden illness. My programmes have been curtailed. It all depends on my doctor...
Q: In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls you were backed by the GJMM and your principal electoral opponents were the CPI-M and the Congress. This time around, in the Hills, the Subhas Ghisingh-led GNLF and Bharati Tamang-led AIGL are also in the fray...
A: They have full right to contest. They are also citizens of the country and they view the situation in a matter that encourages them to contest this election. It is their right.
Q: The Morcha has extended unconditional support to the Trinamul Congress-Congress alliance in the three seats of Darjeeling and few other seats in Jalpaiguri where they are not contesting. In these seats, the BJP has nominees as well. How difficult is it for you to campaign for the Morcha in the Hills when they are supporting your electoral opponents in the other seats of Darjeeling?
A: It is not difficult as long as the viewpoint is clear and the approach is not muddled. The Morcha has lent its support to the combine of the Congress and the Trinamul Congress in a larger context, which is the context of the post-election scenario in West Bengal. As far as some seats are concerned in the Dooars and Terai region, the Morcha has lent support to the BJP in Madarihat as well. I do not see in these any sense of principle dissonance. It is a tactical adjustment of the political situation prevailing in the state by them.
Q: What is your assessment of the BJP's prospects in West Bengal?
A: We are contesting a large number of seats in the state. The BJP would certainly make its presence felt as it has done in the past also by winning seats. I think that the political situation as it is developing in the state you seem to be seeing the end of the three decade-long dominance of the Marxists and the emergence of an alternative. In the emergence of that alternative, the BJP shall also find a mention, which would perhaps not be significant to form a government in West Bengal but certainly to put its footprint in state politics.
Q: The Left Front is facing its toughest electoral challenge in over three decades in West Bengal. Do you agree the Trinamul is riding on a wave of anti-establishment mood in the state?
A: I can only speculate and based on the viewpoints expressed and the sentiment that I can sense, I think the Trinamul-Congress combine should be able to form the next government with the Left Front sitting on the sidelines after three decades.
Q: Miss Mamata Banerjee had been a railway minister in the BJP-led NDA government and she is now at the helm of the same ministry in the Congress-led UPA-II regime. How did you rate her then and how do you rate her now?
A: She has been my Cabinet colleague earlier. It is not for me to rate Cabinet colleagues in terms of school examinations. I see her as a colleague whose companionship and cooperation I have valued earlier and I continue to value that. I am an admirer of her dedication and the spirit with which she takes up her cause. It is an admirable quality.
Q: Would Mamata Banerjee make a good chief minister?
A: I have no doubt that she would apply herself with total sincerity and be committed for the welfare of the state of West Bengal.
Q: Coming back to the Hills, you have always supported the Morcha's demand for a separate state. Is that an alliance compulsion?
A: No. Why is it an alliance compulsion? Not at all. It is a decision taken on its own, asserting the BJP's stand for smaller states. It is that kind of principle. I think Gorkhaland is a very legitimate demand. If we are able to separate ourselves from the sentiment of it in every possible way and think from the perspective of national security, social harmony, economic benefit, administrative convenience and all of that, we will find that it is a legitimate demand.
Q: Once the elections are over, the tripartite negotiations are going to start again. Do you think that the Centre and the state government have been dragging their feet over the issue?
A: I have no doubt that the Left Front government and its attitude to the establishment in meeting the aspirations of the people of the Hill state was a laggard. It is really regrettable. Even, for example, the cyclone Aila that hit West Bengal caused so much damage to the Hills, but the state government did not pay sufficient attention.
Courtesy: Statesman News Service