Elections 2021

It’s a Mamata Banerjee versus people of Bengal fight: Locket Chatterjee

Abhishek Law Chinsurah (Hooghly) | Updated on April 10, 2021

Locket Chatterjee

 

An actor-turned-politician, Locket Chatterjee has built the BJP’s women’s wing and contributed to the party’s meteoric rise in West Bengal. In an interview to BusinessLine, Chatterjee, who is now contesting the Assembly polls from Chunchura, talks about how Jai Shri Ram has become a metaphor for protest against “criminalisation and corruption” of the ruling TMC. Excerpts:

 

How different is your journey as a MP from Hooghly and the current scenario where you are fighting the Assembly polls?

In 2019, when I was named as a candidate for the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat, it was a Trinamool citadel. The Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, had pitched herself as a son-of-the soil and her party was upbeat about making it 3-0 again (Hooghly has three Lok Sabha seats – Hooghly, Arambag and Sreerampur). For us, it was a new fight at that point of time.

We won Hooghly, from where I am the MP; we trailed by 1,100-odd votes in Arambag – then a Trinamool stronghold – and lost in Sreerampur. But we ensured a presence across most places then.

In 2021, the party has built its organisation and presence across the district, BJP has booth-level presence; and is there at the grassroots too. We have worked with the people and there is a spontaneous acceptance for us.

In 2019, there was an atmosphere of fear, in 2021 it is changing. The fear of Trinamool is receding with people being more open about expressing their support.

Tell us about how the BJP built its organisation in Bengal?

In 2017, I was asked to head to Mohila Morcha of the BJP. We went along garnering support so as to build up the wing. In 2018, the party fielded 7,000-odd women candidates at the three-tier-Panchayat system. Nearly 2,500 of them won the elections despite there being widespread violence by the Trinamool. This was when we realised that women voters were supporting the BJP and our (women) candidates found acceptance.

We decided to build up a stronger organisation, with more participation of women, targeting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Numbers went up as more women started reposing their faith in us and began joining the party.

You’ve fashioned yourself as a campaigner for women’s safety in Bengal, isn’t it relatively better than the other States?

I joined the BJP in 2015, and crimes against women were often being reported in the media at that point. We would visit the victims, talk to them or family members. One common thread we found was they were being denied justice.

If I take a step back, in 2011 Mamata Banerjee garnered huge support of the women voters as she came to power. There was hope that a woman Chief Minister would be sympathetic to their cause and deal with issues of sexual assault or crimes against women with an iron-hand. Now in a span of 10 years, there is disillusionment.

A simple glance across media outlets will tell you how women safety is being compromised all across the State. Instances are being reported from places such as Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Bankura, Hooghly and some of these have become high-profile cases.

So today it is the women who are going all out against the woman Chief Minister and raising voice demanding safety.

But the CM is projecting herself as the daughter Bengal wants...

I would like to ask what moral high ground does she (Mamata Banerjee) hold while making these claims. She is one who is denying justice to daughters of the State. I reiterate, women are not safe in West Bengal.

Isn’t the BJP also competing with the Trinamool when it comes to doles or promises and on women empowerment?

I do not think so. What use is a Kanyashree or Rupashree or Sabuj Sathi (flagship women centric schemes of the Trinamool Congress government) when there is no safety of women or girls here.

On the other hand, we have promised in our party manifesto comprehensive women empowerment programs that include free education till the post graduate level, financial independence by allowing 33 per cent reservation in government services (for women), benefits to ensure that there are no drop-outs among girl students and so on.

The Trinamool Congress, however, has promised a basic guaranteed monthly income for women.

If a woman Chief Minister says that the respect of a lady is worth ₹500 per month, then I have nothing more to comment on. Do you want to empower a woman or be happy paying a dole? Why is the issue of women safety ignored during political discussions.

As you are standing in the Assembly polls this time, is a Modi-factor at play?

In 2019, it was Narendra Modi-ji who people were voting for in the Lok Sabha polls. Today, at the Assembly polls, Modi-ji is still a factor, people see him as trustworthy. Be it the Covid-19 pandemic or post-Amphan, people have seen how Modi-ji stood by them during these trying times.

So at some level is this a Modi vs Mamata fight?

It’s a Mamata Banerjee versus people of Bengal fight. In Bengal, Jai Shri Ram is no more a religious slogan, Whether Mamata Banerjee likes to hear it or not, Jai Shri Ram is a protest call of the people, men and women alike. They are protesting against corruption, rising crime graph, government inaction and so on.

You faced some resistance in Chunchura . How was that taken care of?

All the protests you saw in Chunchura and Hooghly district were mostly a got-up game. In Singur some old-timers did protest. However, in many of these cases, the Trinamool Congress stoked the fire in a bid to mask their own problems. They backed some of these dissidents so that people were diverted to think all is not well within the BJP. But, it is no more the case. Our party leadership was quick to identify such incidents and took corrective action, ironed out differences and gained back their (dissidents) confidence.

Published on April 09, 2021

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