Sarma, who is camping in Agartala ahead of elections this month, has 3-4 meetings in Tripura and is also dividing his time between Nagaland and Meghalaya. The North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) chief, in an exclusive interview with News18, expressed confidence that the BJP will form the government in all three states.
How’s the ‘josh’ on the ground? All big shots are campaigning in Agartala.
Elections to Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland are crucial for the development and future of North-east. We are working hard and I am confident that we will form the government in Tripura, win Nagaland with our allies and see how we can contribute to government formation in Meghalaya after elections.
Why should people vote for BJP for the second time in Tripura? What about the other states?
If you come to Tripura after many years, a look at the Tripura airport will give you a feel of how things have changed and the state has developed. Whether it’s highways, rail connectivity or internet, the development has come about in the last five. The state government has delivered on its promises. This makes me confident that the people of Tripura will put their faith in us. Anyway, they can’t trust the CPIM and bring them to power again.
The Opposition says it’s not going to be a cakewalk for BJP, especially with Left-Congress seat-sharing ‘understanding’ and the Tipra Motha factor.
Tipra Motha, CPIM, and Congress have a vote bank but by now, BJP has established a strong organisation in Tripura. Both CPIM and Congress are in decline. Their relationship is not organic, their alliance in no way will affect us. Tipra Motha may win some seats but that will not upset our overall calculation.
You were in talks with Tipra Motha. Why did it not work out? What will happen post elections? What is your take on greater Tipraland?
We agreed on almost all points and told them we are willing to work with them but we cannot divide Tripura as there will be chaos and uncertainty. The creation of Tipraland demand will fuel demands of other separatist groups. Whether or not we form the government, in politics, you just cannot compromise on certain things. We have told them we can’t compromise. We have to take a stand. You cannot divide Tripura.
You are saying no to Tripura’s division but the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has alleged that your leaders of North Bengal are demanding a separate state for the northern part. What about that?
You can’t compare Tripura and Bengal. When someone raises a demand for a separate state, we sit and talk to them. I don’t know why they are asking for a different state. You could probably look at the economic issues they are facing. I am not aware of the dispute. But if someone raises such a demand, you have to talk to them.
The CPIM claims its party offices have been broken in Tripura and they are not allowed to enter.
They are on government land so they have to be removed. They can’t cry over that. You can’t encroach on government land. The question is whether or not those buildings were legal, whether there was encroachment. If you have encroached, you have to be removed. There are two ways for this — either they request you with folded hands or the bulldozer gets to work. I don’t understand why the word ‘bulldozer’ is always used [in a negative context].
Is law and order not an issue in Tripura?
Have you seen any law and order issue till now? We are doing an interview at 2am. Crimes against women have decreased. Tripura is the safest place.
Why was the chief minister changed?
I don’t comment on party decisions that are based on feedback. People keep getting new responsibilities in our party.
Will you poach after the election results?
The BJP has to form a government with the mandate of the people. We are fighting for majority. There is no scenario where we are short on numbers. There is no point discussing what will happen. We are working hard for full majority. The government will be bigger than last time.
Is it a friendly match with ally NPP in Meghalaya?
Meghalaya politics is a little different. This time, we will fight alone and then see the results. Let’s see who gets how many seats. There is no question of going with the Congress and TMC.
What’s your take on the Trinamool Congress?
Compared to Nagaland and Tripura, they have developed some organisation in Meghalaya but that won’t be enough for them to form the government. Let me tell you clearly — They are a non-entity in Tripura and Nagaland. They may have some hold in Meghalaya but that won’t affect us.
Your Opposition says the drive against child marriage is just a political gimmick.
Hindus and Muslims are same in Assam, the numbers will speak. No religion is being targeted. This is an honest effort. We are targeting those who are violating the law.
Madrasa teachers from outside Assam now need to see the police first for verification. Why the move?
Everyone is happy with this. Those who are coming from outside are following the law. We are working together, there is no issue.
How do you see the Opposition’s role in Parliament?
The way the Congress has behaved in the last two days shows that they are using Parliament to attack an individual. It shows their motive was to defame a person. This is absolutely wrong on their part. They are not acting as a responsible Opposition. They will pay the price for that.
What’s you take on Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Parliament?
Nobody hears Rahul Gandhi. Only people from a certain ecosystem hear and clap for him. I have not seen his speech. I don’t think it’s worth looking at what Rahul Gandhi says. I have seen PM Narendra Modi’s address. It is one of the best speeches. I don’t think anybody in India listens to Rahul Gandhi.
What’s your take on Mahua Moitra’s now-expunged comment?
I don’t know Mahua Moitra. I know she is an honourable MP and nothing else. I have not taken any interest in what she says.
Will we see Himanta Biswa Sarma in a bigger role?
I am the chief minister of Assam now. My primary duty is to promote Assam and work for the people. I can’t speak good Hindi or English. As chief minister, I campaign everywhere but for me, it’s better to stay in Assam.
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