India Today

How to defeat Modi in 2019 - Mamata reveals all to India Today magazine

In an exclusive interview with Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa at her office in Kolkata, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee spoke candidly on her bitter battles with the Centre and the BJP, her second term in power, efforts to build an Opposition alliance, relations with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and accusations that she has built no second line of leadership.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was her usual feisty and combative self as she sat down for an exclusive interview with Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa at her office in Kolkata. She spoke candidly on her bitter battles with the Centre and the BJP, her second term in power, efforts to build an Opposition alliance, relations with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and accusations that she has built no second line of leadership. Excerpts:

Q. You've faced many challenges in your life, whether in your early childhood, or later in politics. What has been the biggest struggle of your life so far?

A. Struggle has been a part and parcel of my life. After my father died, we faced hardship but never asked anybody for help. We were self-sufficient. Student life taught me a lesson - never bow down your head, be straightforward and bold in whatever you do. Then I faced 34 years of Left misrule, their torture. If you see my health reports, I've been operated on five to six times, from my brain to my belly to my hands to my eyes. I was about to die so many times. It was only my spirit [that kept me alive]. I was never scared, never afraid.

Q. So was defeating the CPI(M) the hardest of those struggles?

A. We fought them for 34 years, right from our student life. Even now, when we are in government, we are dealing with the effects of Left misrule. In the seven years of my government, we have paid Rs 2,14,000 crore to service the debt [they left behind]. Now how do we run the government, do social work, developmental work? The Centre has not given us any support. We have said so many times that this is not our fault, it is the legacy [we inherited]. Restructure the debt, at least give us some scope to repay. But they are not taking any action. This year, too, we had to pay Rs 47,700 crore as interest. We want to develop the state, but we are not getting any cooperation from the Centre. Because we do not support them, they are not doing anything for us.

Q. What about the cooperative federalism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps talking about?

A. Forget cooperative federalism, there is no federal structure to speak of now. They (the BJP-led government) want to destroy everything. Their policy of hatred has destroyed the country, destroyed society and destroyed the economy. Now even the media, with exceptions, have become saleable commodities. Recently,

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