CPI-M leader SHATARUP GHOSH, a third-time MLA candidate for Kasba assembly constituency and party spokesperson is known to his comrades and voters as the ‘boy with a golden heart and a silver tongue’ that often puts the opposition speaker in dire straits during debates.

Ghosh explains to SOUMYADIP MULLLICKwhy he feels present-day politics is letting down youth who are constantly trying to bring the “people’s government” narrative on the right track.

Q. You contested in an Assembly poll at the age of 25 in 2011 from Kasba and after 2016,this is the third time you have been fielded by CPI-M from your home constituency.What drew you to politics?

A. I never had any political background in the family. I was drawn to the Left philosophy through cultural influences. Works of eminent personalities such as Pablo Neruda, Bob Dylan, Sukanta Bhattacharya and many others became my inspiration. My first brush with politics was in college where I joined the Students’ Federation of India and thereafter destiny took its own course.

Q. Is today’s youth losing interest in politics or are politicians letting the youth down each time they look for aspiration?

A. Both. There is an orchestrated effort to make the youth lose interest in politics. In Indian cinema, we often come across villainous and corrupt politicians. At present, it seems the line between on-screen and off-screen politicians has blurred.

Even in cinema, we used to often feel certain things were over-the-top but now we are shocked to see these being replicated by politicians in real life. This is one reason why youths feel demoralized. The second example is chief minister Mamata Banerjee banning college union elections right after coming to power.

If college campuses do not contribute to the making of a future politician then what will? At present, political figures are emerging out of mafia and syndicates.

Q. A popular narrative that the Left is a party of and for veterans only has changed this time. In the 2021 Assembly polls, the Left-Front has fielded several youth candidates. How do you think it will impact the voters?

A. It is important to point out that all our Left youth candidates have come to this position through years of struggle and hard work. These youth began student-level politics and have worked their way up gradually but at the same time continued with their education.

They were given this opportunity not out of any nepotism factor or because they come from privileged families. These youth represent the sons and daughters of every household that is today struggling to get proper education and jobs to secure their careers.

Today’s youth desperately want someone who would make their demands heard amidst the prevailing political cacophony.

Q. If you were to handle the education portfolio in the state, what are the necessary changes you would have proposed to improve the education system?

A. One of our agenda items is to make education free in government schools till class 10 or 12. Secondly, the focus will be on helping students to grow a scientific temperament so that they can be empirical in their approach to life and resist each time a government or a political party tries to turn yesterday’s superstition into today’s practice.

Under the present central and state governments, lines are blurred between mythology and history. Quality education is vital. Thirdly, we will restore the practice of providing government fellowships for core subjects which include research works in science.

Fourthly, employment generation since education is incomplete without it. Under the Mamata government, people are made to feel as if the government is doing a big favour by giving us what is already within the ambit of our rights. Dole is not a solution but a concession. Last but not the least, teacher recruitments in schools, since it did not happen in the last 10 years.

Q. Left youth organizations had arranged a protest march to state secretariat Nabanna to demand their rights to proper education and employment but were resisted by a huge contingent of police who charged with batons and subsequently a youth worker lost his life.Is this a sign of autocracy?

A. Definitely. The message from the state government is, come to us with folded hands and we will shower you with privileges but if legitimate demands are raised, a brutal police force will be unleashed to scuttle any protest. Had those students gone to Nabanna to ask for doles, they would have come back loaded with cash but their mistake was to raise demands on education and employment.

TMC workers, who have only handed over alcohol bottles and illegal arms to the unemployed in the last 10 years, will also get jobs if we come to power since every citizen has the right to employment.

Q. We have always seen the Left’s Brigade ground rallies drawing lakhs of people from all corners of the state and this time too it was apparent. Why does this footfall not convert into votes?

A. It does convert but 2019 was an exception. Those who voted for either the TMC or the BJP in 2019 have suffered the consequences and realized their blunder. These two parties never care for real issues. We on the other hand are continuously highlighting issues that matter to people.

We have pledged to start recruitment in all vacant seats in government jobs and also increase the 100 days’ work to 150 days if we form government. The reason why people will vote for us is simple. Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, in his public rally in Bengal, said if BJP comes to power, cow shelters will be built for cow protection.

Now people will decide whether they will vote for their children’s secured future or for Yogi’s cows.

Q. Bengal is quite apparently polarized between Hindu and Muslim votes while TMC and BJP leaders have begun chanting religious hymns on stage during public rallies to prove their knowledge of religion to each other. How do you think the youth perceives it?

A. This will be answered by the youth of Bengal in the upcoming election though votes. We strongly condemn the fusion of religion with politics. This never happened during 34 years of Left Front rule. We believe religion is a matter of personal belief and must not be dragged into state politics or vice-versa,

Q. Left Front is stuck in an alliance with the Indian Secular Front led by Furfura Sharif’s Muslim cleric Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui who in the past made comments which cannot be accepted in a civilized society.How secular do you think the ISF is?

A. In the Sanyukta Morcha Brigade rally, everyone saw Abbas giving his speech. Has he for once talked of religion or made his points along religious lines? On the contrary, we have seen during public rallies how Mamata feels compelled to utter Inshallah as many times as she thinks she should. Trinamul was said to be a messiah for the Muslims.

Today the Trinamul turncoat Suvendu Adhikari tells Mamata that in Nandigram, some 65,000 Muslims votes won’t even matter since he will secure victory with 2 lakh Hindu votes. Now the messiah doesn’t even require the Muslims.

Even Abbas Siddiqui has admitted that communalism never got to rear its ugly head in Bengal during Left Front rule. The BJP is attempting to constantly change the Constitution of India to suit their religious propaganda with RSS support but ISF is not demanding Sharia law in Bengal, but fundamental rights of the people.

Two political parties might differ in certain perspectives but when it comes to a broader spectrum of policies that we think is good for the country on an immediate basis, we join hands to work towards implementing it.

Q. You secured about 41.26 per cent of votes in 2016 Assembly polls from the Kasba constituency and finished second after TMC candidate Javed Khan who secured 47.41 per cent of the total votes. Given your apparent popularity among the residents of the Kasba area, what is your target this time?

A. It is important to recall that Kasba is made up of six wards, among which CPI-M won five in the 2016 polls. It was only in one ward that a few booths dictated the poll results eventually. People know how the poll was conducted in these booths.

Money and muscle power may have had a bearing on the last election but not this time. Voters know who works for them throughout the year. CPI-M has been running Sramajibi Canteen since the Covid outbreak when several people were left famished during months of lockdown.

Today the TMC government has introduced the ‘Ma’ scheme and I appreciate it since this will also help feed the famished. In fact, this is healthy competition rather than competing to recruit as many celebrities as one can to increase the party’s glamour quotient and gain votes through fandom.