In June 2019, the Congress sprung surprise by naming Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as its leader in the Lok Sabha. He became the first MP from Bengal to hold the post with the Congress sitting in the opposition benches.
In the last general elections, Chowdhury won against the Trinamool Congress’s Apurba Sarkar from the Berhampur constituency, a seat he has been representing since 1999.
Known as the ‘Robinhood’ of Murshidabad’, Chowdhury received compliments from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being a strong critic of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and called him a ‘fighter’. Recently, he made headlines for a confusing tweet on former Union minister and Rajya Sabha MP P Chidambaram and his statements during debates in Parliament on abrogation of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution.
In an exclusive chat with News18, Chowdhury talked about these controversies, his party’s alliance with the Left Front in Bengal and how the CBI has softened its probe in the Saradha chit fund scam after Banerjee’s meeting with the PM and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) rally in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade ground in January this year had welcomed the Trinamool Congress supremo’s call for a third front. In her letter to Banerjee, she had even said the rally was a key attempt at galvanising leaders from across the political spectrum against the Modi government. After all this, what went wrong in Bengal that you went for an alliance with the Left and not with the TMC?
Yes, it’s true that everybody came together for the rally before the Lok Sabha elections to put up a joint fight against the BJP. Unfortunately, Banerjee is only interested in herself. She only thinks about herself and people who are closely associated to her. She hardly cares about the sentiments and ideologies of other parties and therefore, the alliance didn’t materialise.
At the time, when she was talking about a ‘mahagathbandhan’ on the national level, her party workers were attacking Congress supporters in Bengal. This reveals their real intention and they were not honest about the initiative. On several occasions, they insulted our leaders in the state as well in Delhi. Do you think after knowing her true colours, the Congress should have made an alliance with the TMC in Bengal?
You failed to have an alliance with the Left in the Lok Sabha elections due to seat-adjustment issues. Now you have an alliance with in the upcoming bye-poll for three seats — Karimpur, Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar in Bengal. Do you think this tie-up is actually going to work in Bengal? How viable it is?
It is a mutual compulsion for both the Congress and Left. See, this is not for the first time we have opted for an alliance with the Left Front in Bengal. In the 2016 Assembly polls, we had a deal with the Left (the Congress had won 44 seats) and it went quite well. This time too we are hopeful of a good show in this by-election. You call it ideological or political strategy, the Congress and Left are committed to fight tooth and nail against both the TMC and BJP in Bengal.
For us, both the TMC and BJP are the same, because we feel they have an understanding. We felt together we would be able to fight against these parties at a noticeable political stage.
Will this alliance with the Left continue till 2021 state elections?
Too early to comment on this as anything can happen in politics. However, based on the present situation, I think it will be there. As I said it’s our mutual compulsion. I think if we fight together in the coming Assembly polls, it will become a cause of concern for both the camps. An alliance with the Left is certainly going to help us. Our stand is very clear — we are ideologically committed to stand against the ruling government in Bengal and BJP dispensation at the Centre.
The TMC chief has always maintained a balanced relationship with Sonia Gandhi. She has always refrained herself from making any odd comment against her. However, she had not commented anything on the Congress’ gains in the recently held Assembly polls in Maharashtra. What is your take on this?
Undoubtedly, we did well in the Maharashtra polls under the leadership of Sonia Gandhiji. As far as Mamata Banerjee is concerned, she is only interested in herself. She is a megalomaniac leader and she is an opportunist. For her vested interests, she can compromise with her ideologies. Recently, you must have noticed that she met Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi and after that everyone knows that the entire CBI operation in the chit fund scam got muted.
She knew that her name will come up during the Ponzi scam investigation if the CBI goes for an impartial probe. Therefore to shield herself, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee and other party leaders, she hurriedly went to Delhi and met the PM and HM. Now, coming back to your question, Banerjee didn’t like that the Congress did well in Maharashtra. This shows that she is having some political adjustment with the BJP. In politics, nothing is impossible as she was with the NDA (in 2004) at one point.
Are you saying after her meeting with Modi and Shah, the CBI slowed down its investigation in chit fund scam?
Yes, the CBI is shielding them. It has become silent. The entire investigation process has slowed down after the meeting in Delhi. Banerjee is known for a strong critic of Modi and Shah, but you must have noticed that of late, she is not particularly vocal against them. Her stiff opposition against them has just vanished.
We have to think how the BJP managed to get 18 seats in the last general elections. Was there any understanding between the TMC and BJP? Despite having a grand ‘mahagathbandhan’ rally before the Lok Sabha elections in Kolkata, Banerjee never showed any interest in having alliance with us in Bengal. Why? People in Bengal know everything. She is exposed now and I am sure the Congress and Left will be able to do much better in this by-election and in 2021 Assembly polls.
Do you think Sonia Gandhi should remain the party president till the next parliamentary polls or Rahul Gandhi/Priyanka Gandhi should take charge of the party?
I am a small fry and it is beyond my position to comment on this. I am just following the party’s instruction and my job is to strengthen the Congress as a dedicated party worker in Bengal. I have nothing much to say on this. Please don’t ask me such questions.
Recently, your tweet on P Chidambaram (hours after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the INX Media Case) made headlines. People were confused on what exactly you wanted to say. You also said something on Article 370 in the Lok Sabha, which upset some of your senior party leaders. What exactly you meant on the two occasions?
It was a legal jargon (the tweet). You may ask a legal professional. If someone has failed to understand my tweet, then it is his or her problem. What can I do, if someone fails to understand my tweet? Those who are confused and making headlines, I would like to suggest them to flip the pages of legal dictionary to get the actual meaning. On your second question, I have nothing to say.