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Mamata must take mature decisions
Why did you decide to support Mamata in the initial days?
We invested our time and energy on her since 2005. It became a cardinal faith to remove the Left Front from power. We had high hopes for her (Mamata). She had everything to give the people. Torture inflicted by political parties cleanses a person. Mamata was symbol of this catharsis. But we had no role in vote-gathering. We only wanted free and fair elections. The CPM was an antithesis to it.
Is it true you were offered money to dump Mamata?
Yes. And I had a good laugh.
Some may be laughing at you now. Or at your disillusionment. Since when have you been feeling this way?
It started post the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, looking at the populist measures being taken in the railways at the cost of security. There was no tariff hike. But we still thought it was Mamata or no one. And 2011 was the natural culmination of the earlier historic events. But things don't seem to be falling in place now. I was surprised when Nazrul Islam was shunted out. (Islam, an IPS officer, had written a book against the Left's style of functioning and was later handpicked by Mamata as director, security, in the railways. Mamata had said Islam would be police commissioner when she became CM. )
How keenly are you watching the new government?
We are watchful. I guess everyone is keenly watching how the veteran opposition leader fares at the helm. She should have more good people with her.
But she does. There is Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta and others. . .
Yes, they are the stars in Mamata's cabinet. But they seemed to have lost their voices. They should advise Mamata Banerjee to raise taxes and generate revenue. They should dissuade her from announcing populist policies without taken the ground reality into account.
What about the people?
I think the aam aadmi still has a lot of expectations from her. But she must take mature decisions, or the people will be disillusioned.
The CM made you head the two expert education committees. Why did you resign?
The first phase of the committees was over. We had done our job. It was time to make room for others to step in.
You don't think education is well-managed ?
It would be unfair to say so. I'm not quite sure of the Mentor Group for Presidency College, though. They are supposed to revive the college, but all these people (including Amartya Sen) live outside the country and are unfamiliar with Bengal. But I think Mamata is trying very hard to do something about the sorry state of education. She needs time. She should give herself the time. She seems in a tearing hurry.
What would be the fallout of this haste?
Things will gradually go out of hand. Already there are reports of internal strife within the Trinamool Congress. I am scared of all these continuing.
And what then?
I guess voters will have no choice between the Trinamool and the CPM. And Congress would stand a pretty good chance as a third alternative.
Will you switch sides, too?
(Smiles) I have already told Mamata I shall continue to give her qualified support.
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