The political and organisational report of the 23rd Party Congress of the CPI-M that concluded in Kannur, said the West Bengal unit of the party failed in assessing the real strength of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state. “The State Committee (of West Bengal) had assessed the relations between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP as collusion between the two to create bipolarity in the State and hence underestimated the consequent growing confrontation between the BJP and the TMC,” the report said.
However, Mohammad Salim, the Polit Bureau member from West Bengal, while talking to The Federal continued to take the state unit’s earlier line. He said that TMC was acting like the subsidiary company of the BJP and it was implementing the right-wing policies of the BJP.
Following is an interview with Mohammed Salim, who was chosen as the State Secretary:
The Central Committee has analysed that the State Committee’s miscalculation about the dynamics between the BJP and the TMC diluted the sharpness of your party’s anti-BJP campaign. What is your view on this?
It is true that in the last election, the focus of the campaign was somewhat diluted. But there were sufficient reasons for it. Party workers and activists have been subjected to severe attacks from the TMC over 10 years. What the TMC is doing (the violence against CPM cadres) is the same as what BJP has done in Tripura. In Tripura, the BJP is doing it directly under its own signboard, but in West Bengal the violence is being carried out under the signboard of the TMC.
CPI-M workers and activists are being killed; their family members are killed or raped. CPI-M cadres are being framed in false cases and their livelihoods snatched. This is the experience of the people in West Bengal. I am not equating the TMC and the BJP, but see what TMC has done. It has destroyed the secular fabric, the democratic atmosphere and the opposition’s space which only helped the BJP to grow. The right-wing ideology is being strengthened by both the BJP and the TMC.
So, who is the bigger enemy – the BJP or the TMC? Are you saying that the BJP and the TMC colluded with each other in the State?
The party is not talking about a bigger enemy or a lesser enemy. I did not say ‘they colluded’, but I would say the BJP outsourced to the TMC the task to defeat the Left in West Bengal. You have to see the ground realities in West Bengal. Before the election, many TMC leaders joined the BJP. After the election, some of them came back to the TMC.
If we put it in corporate language, TMC is a subsidiary company started by Mukul Roy and Mamata. Roy took prescription from Nagpur to eliminate CPI-M from the state. He parted ways with the TMC to join the BJP, then he came back. The media hyped this give-and-take between the BJP and the TMC and this created the perception that there were only two forces in the state. BJP’s presence in the state was an inflated one, created by the right-wing media. It is clear from the election results. Where is the BJP now?
Why do you think the minorities in Bengal, especially the Muslims, drifted away from the party?
There are many reasons. The BJP with money, media power and muscle power injects fear among the minorities. All the leaders of BJP, including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, were campaigning in Bengal against Muslims as if they were Rohingyas and will be thrown out of the country.
On the one side, this fear is created and on the other, Mamata is portrayed as the saviour of the minorities. I think these two are linked. It is a marketing strategy that was applied in politics. First, a perception is created through the media that what has been going on in the state was a binary fight between the BJP and the TMC. Then the fear is created and a saviour is introduced. Thus, the votes were polarised. This is the same strategy applied by the BJP during the Balakot air strike as well as the introduction of CAA/NRC. They create fear and then they introduce a saviour with the sole intention to eliminate secular Left forces.
Why did the party fail in capitalising on the movements you initiated — the farmers’ movement in Maharashtra and, of course, Sanyukt Kisan Movement where Comrade Hanan Mollah was at the helm?
It may be due to organisational weakness. We need to do something more to win the trust of the people. But this is not something specific to Bengal. See what happened in the rest of the country. There was a huge peasant movement in Western UP, but what happened in the election? In Assam, there was a tremendous agitation against CAA, NRC. BJP leaders were unable to go there to meet voters, but they won the election. What does it mean? The support for a mass movement need not always translate into votes.
Electioneering is a different process. In the era of gadgets, technology, black money and ‘modia’ (referring to the right-wing media), the popular mood of the people is being changed days before the polling. Some social scientists need to study this. But, ‘If you do not win, then you close the shop’ is not the case here. The Left will continue the fight to single out BJP and its attempt to create a fascist regime in India.
What lessons can Kerala learn from West Bengal, especially in the context of a second term for the Left government and mega projects like K Rail being introduced? The civil society groups in Kerala often warn that there would be a ‘Nandigram’ in Kerala.
All States in India have some lessons to learn from each other. Kerala is different from West Bengal in several aspects, though there are many similarities too. This ‘Nandigram propaganda’ is only a political tactic applied by the opposition.