As leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, ADHIR RANJAN CHOWDHURYhas been mandated to lead the principal Opposition party in taking on the BJP and steer the Opposition’s strategies and direction in the House of the People.

A Congress stalwart from West Bengal, Chowdhury, 65, has vast experience as a parliamentarian and is known as a political firebrand. In the 2019 general elections, he got elected to the Lok Sabha for the fifth term from the Baharampur constituency.

In September 2020, he was again appointed as president of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee — a role in which he will have to now lead a debilitated party in the upcoming Bengal Assembly elections that would essentially be a fierce battle between the incumbent Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul (TMC) and the resurgent BJP.

In a freewheeling interview with ABHIJEET ANAND, Chowdhury candidly spoke on a range of burning issues.

Excerpts:

Q. What are the issues on which the Congress will contest the Bengal assembly elections?

A. There are a plethora of issues in West Bengal. It has been recognised as a laggard state in the country and over the years no development worth its name has taken place. Industry has been left high and dry. Unemployment has been going up astronomically. So that is why there is no dearth of issues.

Second thing, West Bengal now has been drifting towards a state of anarchy. On the one hand, TMCled anarchy has descended on the state. Now BJP-led communalism has also been penetrating into the societal framework. Both forces are inimical to the stability of Bengal.

On the one hand, it is the forces of autocracy, atrocities, violence, and corruption, which are ruling the state. And on the other, the fanatical forces, the communal forces are also rearing their ugly head in West Bengal. So both these forces must be defeated. That is the agenda and sole objective of our party.

Q. Did the TMC approach the Congress for an alliance for the coming elections?

A. I don’t have any idea about this.

Q. The TMC and the BJP are the only two major political parties in West Bengal.By not allying with the TMC, are you not making it easier for the BJP?

A. I have already told you, both parties are inimical to the growth, stability, and progress of the state. For years the TMC has been ruling Bengal and they have taken it to a state of anarchy, corruption, violence and atrocities.

On the other hand, as I just said, the BJP is rearing its head, which is also detrimental and antithetical to the state of Bengal. I recognise both these parties as evil forces, which are to be defeated.

Q. The NCP and the RJD are close to the Congress. They are now allying with the TMC. So, what will be the Congress’s strategy?

A. See… I don’t know what kind of alliance has been made between the NCP and the TMC. In Maharashtra, they (NCP) are certainly having an alliance with us. They have their own agenda. They are an individual political entity. I don’t know what kind of alliance they are going to nurture with the TMC. In West Bengal, I do not have any idea of a NCP-TMC alliance.

Q. The Congress is forging an alliance with the Left for the Bengal elections?

A. Yes. The process is going on. Earlier also in 2016 we had stitched an alliance with the Left parties and fought jointly. An electoral alliance had taken place at that time. Again, in 2021 both parties have agreed to fight the two evil forces jointly. So, we are in the process of having an electoral alliance with the Left. Both parties will be fighting the election as allied forces.

Q. Is the Congress allying with the Left because it does not have a base in Bengal?

A. Who says that the Congress does not have any base in West Bengal? If Congress does not have any base then how has it been able to win 44 MLA seats in the state. We have also secured 2 MP seats…We are not a dominant force, but certainly we are a force to be reckoned with in Bengal.

Q. What would be the seat sharing arrangement between the Congress and the Left?

A. It is a process that has been going on. We will be sharing our seats in consultation. It will be a mutual discussion, based on mutual assessment of the seats that will be determined especially in view of the winnability.

Where they are strong we will offer them seats, and where we are strong they will offer us seats. A mutual strategy will be adopted with a single objective of winning more seats to defeat both the TMC and the BJP.

Q. The AAP has charged that the Congress is not raising the farmers’ issue aggressively in Parliament?

A. See… this is the Congress party which first waged agitation against the central government on the farmers issue. The tractor rally, which is now popular among the common masses, was set in motion after the Rahul Gandhi-led tractor rally in Punjab.

The Congress party has been holding numerous political programmes in support of farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s farm laws across the country. The BJP wants to suppress these rallies. But the Congress has been waging nationwide agitation against its regime on the farmers’ issue. Every day we are fighting in Parliament and outside on this issue.

Q. What is your stand on the Modi government’s three farm laws?

A. Our stand is loud and clear. We are pressing for repeal of these three farm laws and it has already been enunciated by our party on a number of occasions.

Q. Do you have plans to sit among the farmers and protest against the Modi government on the issue?

A. Farmers of our country are competent to deal with the government. If any kind of cooperation is sought by them, the Congress is always ready to offer cooperation on each and every thing required by farmer leaders.

We are very much in support of farmers’ agitation. Our leader Priyanka Gandhi visited the families of the persons who lost their lives during the farmers’ agitation to offer her condolences to them. We are very much in the thick of agitation on the farmers issue.