As the West Bengal Chief Minister steps up efforts to put together a federal front to halt the BJP juggernaut, Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien tells Richa Sharma the objective is to build a positive, pro-diversity front for the people, not an anti-front
Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief, has been busy travelling the length and breadth of the country to stitch together a federal front and stop the BJP juggernaut in its tracks. The idea, however, is not to create an anti-front but bring together a positive and a pro-diversity front, All India Trinamool Congress’s Chief National Spokesperson Derek O’Brien said in an exclusive interview to The New Sunday Express.
Commenting on the BJP’s attempts to strengthen its presence in West Bengal, O’Brien — also leader of the AITC parliamentary party in the Rajya Sabha — said the state was still a distant dream for that party. He claimed the saffron party had lost the plot at the Centre and should try and handle Delhi first.
The Trinamool MP underscored that Mamata was likely to play a lead role in the proposed federal front in the 2019 general elections. But he steered clear of talking about the Congress’s role in such a coming together of federal forces.
O’Brien also revealed that Mamata was sounding out NDA allies unhappy with the BJP and would soon travel to Tamil Nadu to meet DMK leaders. Excerpts from the interview:
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has taken the lead in meeting leaders of federal forces. What is the way forward for formation of a federal front?
Anyone who is strong in their state, there should be one-on-one contests. The objective is to make a pro-people, pro-India, pro-diversity government. It’s not an anti-front. It’s a positive front. You have seen what is happening in all the states, be it Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal. Congress, too, will win many states.
Is Mamata Banerjee likely to meet Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati to take forward the idea of an anti-BJP front?
She is a leader with more than 40 years of experience. She is a three-time Union minister, two-time Chief Minister and was a Member of Parliament for 25 years. So, obviously she is a political person with gravitas. She is in touch with people and people are in touch with her. They are not discussing the weather or the IPL!
The BJP recently approached the Supreme Court against the TMC, claiming their candidates were being threatened during the panchayat election process in West Bengal…
BJP has already figured out that so much of development has happened in Bengal, so now they must attempt to change the conversation. These are all false allegations and excuses. The people of Bengal have already decided and they (BJP) don’t have any answers. So they have already started looking for excuses.
The BJP has been trying to gain ground in West Bengal. Are they a possible threat in Bengal?
First, they should try and handle Delhi. They have lost the plot at the Centre. They are rapidly losing ground in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh… downhill everywhere for them. In UP, they lost the by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. So they should focus on that. Bengal is far away. Bengal is light years away for them.
Do you think there is an attempt to polarise the electorate in West Bengal before the 2019 elections?
That is their communal agenda. But development and diversity are the two planks on which the people trust and are committed to Trinamool.
Will Trinamool accept the Congress as leading partner in the planned federal front?
Now you are getting ahead of the story. Trinamool will play a lead role in 2019. Mamata Banerjee will play a lead role. We will all work together for the nation.
Is TMC in talks with NDA allies that are unhappy with BJP?
We are a political party. Not an NGO. Of course, we are.
Didi is planning to visit Chennai, so will she meet DMK, AIADMK, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan?
She will travel to Chennai later in the summer to meet Mr K and MK Stalin. We have a very good equation with DMK as well.