Even as hectic political activity is on to form a common platform for the Opposition parties to take on the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, senior Trinamul Congress leader Sukhendu Sekhar Roy says that a united Opposition is not on the horizon as of now. He, however, does not rule out the possibility of some kind of understanding between parties before 2019.
In an interview to Sreeparna Chakrabarty, he says TMC leader Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that her party does not hanker for power. When asked to comment about UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s statement that Rahul Gandhi is her boss, he remaked that Rahul Gandhi being the boss of the Congress is an internal matter of political party.
How do you visualise the formation of an Opposition alliance ahead of 2019 general elections?
As far as the Opposition unity is concerned, there is floor coordination among different political parties, both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, to take on the various anti-people policies being followed by the Central government. This has resulted in closing of ranks among the Opposition parties in Parliament.
But, as of now, I do not know any Opposition unity. We do hold some joint meetings but those are restricted to certain specific issues. If politically, we define Opposition unity as an understanding formed before the elections and an understanding formed after the elections, which ultimately gives birth to political unity and the formation of a government then it is too early to answer this question.
Having said that, I don’t rule out the possibility of some sort of unity, keeping in view the current scenario in the country where democracy is at stake and the remedies as guaranteed in the Constitution to the citizens are not being followed in letter and spirit. The provisions of the Constitution are being violated.
What would be the Trinamool Congress’ role in such an alliance?
My party chief Mamata Banerjee has gone on record saying that we are in favour of Opposition unity against the tyrannical rule of the Central government, particularly when this government is destroying the federal spirit and structure of the country. Let the leadership be taken by anybody who wants to take the lead. She has said that our party would not go hankering after power.
Are there any conditions Trinamool Congress would put forward for participation in such an alliance?
Ms Banerjee has appealed to all the political parties. She was the first voice against demonetisation. She was the first voice against the wrong implementation of the GST. In fact, she was the only campaigner against these issues. She toured states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi besides holding meets in West Bengal. Ultimately, everybody understood that it was a myth to talk about the benefits of demonetisation and GST. The ruling party tried to convince the people that so many good things will come. But our campaign punctured the euphoria being sold by the ruling party.
Ms. Sonia Gandhi has said that Mr. Rahul Gandhi was her leader too. Would you be ready to accept him as your leader?
Mr Gandhi’s leadership is an internal matter of the Congress Party and we cannot comment on it. But the TMC has joined hands with the Congress on many issues. The Congress has also supported us, both inside and outside Parliament. So when we talk of Opposition unity, the Congress is included.
How would you interpret the Bengal by-poll results where the BJP has emerged as the second party after the TMC?
The BJP is not only the second party; it is the first among all the defeated parties. So they are in competition with other parties like the Congress and the CPI (M) to secure the position of one or two among defeated parties. There always exist some anti-government forces and possibly the erstwhile supporters of CPI (M) and the Congress voted for the BJP which is why they got so many votes.
What is your opinion on the pitch for simultaneous polls for state Assemblies and Parliament?
All of a sudden a pitch is being raised for simultaneous elections. Has the Election Commission, which is the constitutional authority, entrusted to look after elections, sent any proposal to the government yet? No. Is there any proposal from the government to the Election Commission to that effect? No. Then how come the head of the state and the head of the government are propagating simultaneous polls? The BJP says simultaneous polls will save money and time. But there is no such provision in the Constitution that both election to Parliament and legislatures are to be held simultaneously.
Yes, Parliament can amend the Constitution. But the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, has ruled that though Parliament has the right to amend the Constitution, Parliament cannot destroy its basic structure. Further, there has to be some unanimity among all the political parties for doing this, but as of now there is none.