Political violence big worry for Bengal: Somnath Chatterjee

Last Updated: Mon, Apr 11, 2011 07:52 hrs
Somnath Chatterjee

Kolkata: Political violence and 'politics of confrontation' are a big worry for West Bengal on Monday as even civil society and the media tend to politicise any issue, rues Somnath Chatterjee. The former Lok Sabha speaker is worried about free and fair polls in the coming assembly elections as the trend is to 'terrorise and mislead people'.

'Today the trend is to terrorise and mislead people through falsehood and make politics out of confrontation and conflict. It is a matter of greatest concern and worry today. Issues are becoming more and more irrelevant. It has reached a crescendo in West Bengal,' Chatterjee, 81, said in an exclusive interview.

The former Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP alleged that a section of the media has become 'wholly politicised' and is fanning trouble.

Several hundred people have been killed in political violence since 2009. In January, miscreants allegedly sheltered in a camp run by the CPI-M had fired at people in Netai village, kiling nine.

'One shudders to read about killings, murders and also the role of a section of civil society, which has been discriminating with respect to deaths, murders and mayhem on the basis of their own political thinking and affiliation - something not always openly admitted,' said Chatterjee.

In the assembly polls during April 18-May 10, the Left Front is facing the stiffest challenge of its 34-year reign.

Asked if it would be different from the other elections fought since 1977, Chatterjee said: 'Well, I don't know. I am not campaigning. I am not taking part in these elections. I am not going anywhere for these elections.'

'I only hope that people will be allowed to vote freely and fairly. I have seen the 1972 elections, which were a farce,' he said while refusing to compare the current situation with the state of affairs when Emergency was proclaimed in 1975.

'There is no point trying to compare the situation today with what happened during the Emergency because that was a case of a power- hungry government trying to end democracy in this country to remain in power,' said Chatterjee, who shuttles between Kolkata and Santiniketan.

He fought his last election in 2004.

The former parliamentary party leader of the CPI-M was expelled from the party for presiding over the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's trust vote in the Lok Sabha in 2008 in defiance of the party diktat.

Chatterjee did not give a direct reply when asked if he would appeal to the people if his old party, the CPI-M, requested him to do so. 'It is a hypothetical question,' he said.

Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009, Chatterjee had a long innings in the lower house of parliament, with his only defeat coming in 1984 at the hands of a first-timer, Mamata Banerjee.

Chatterjee refused to comment on whether Banerjee would make a good chief minister.

'I don't know. If she is elected by the people, I will give her my good wishes for the sake of the state. If people elect her, she will be chief minister. How can I say if anybody in this country will be a good minister unless he or she performs?'

And how does he rate Banerjee as railway minister? 'I don't want to comment. Everybody sees what is happening. It's for the people to judge on their own experience.'

Chatterjee said it is for the people to decide whether a political change was needed and if Banerjee could take the reins of the administration. 'If people want somebody other than the incumbent, they have every liberty to elect anybody.'

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