Kolkata: Communist Party of India (Marxist) has fielded once again Jadavpur University’s Professor Nandini Mukherjee as its candidate from Kolkata Dakshin (South). The 53-year-old scientist has been contesting elections from this area since she chose to contest against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011 by-election. Post nomination she has been diligently campaigning from the party at various wards. The JU professor has been hitting the streets of Kolkata South twice a day, even in this heat. In between her Sunday campaign, Nandini chose to engage in a candid talk with eNewsroom, on she finds herself in politics being a scientist, Mamata Banerjee rule in Bengal, and how women friendly is BJP. Following are excerpts from the conversation:
eNewsroom: Rarely have we seen scientist’s contest elections. What made you come into politics?
Nandini: I think more and more people like us should join politics as there is a need for honest and hardworking people in this sector (politics). However, coming to that, I have always been part of CPI (M), first I was associated with its student movement and the teacher’s movement. But, it was post-2011 Assembly election that I chose to jump into active politics. As we realised that TMC had no policies to benefit the people and that it is actually not a party and is run by some really corrupt people.
eNewsroom: But wasn’t 1991 the last time that CPM won from this constituency? Hasn’t it been a TMC stronghold since then?
Nandini: It’s true when you say so. It definitely had been TMC’s stronghold till 2011, but seven-and-a-half years of its rule in Bengal is making many voters more inclined towards the Left. As I campaign for the election in this constituency, several people have asked me as to when we (CPIM) would be coming back into power?
Also, talking about the 2011 or 2014 election, we have heard stories of how the TMC ministers had gone to the slum areas and forced the people to cast votes in favour of TMC on the polling day.
eNewsroom: Being a data scientist, have the election data of both 2011 and 2014 been analysed to benefit the party this year?
Nandini: That way, we haven’t really analysed the data. I know such data analysis is often done internationally but we haven’t done it so far. But yes, we do have data on how votes were cast on the polling day in certain pockets. I guess that will definitely help us.
eNewsroom: Kolkata Dakshin has three educated women pitched against each other by three main political parties. Your comment, please?
Nandini: I feel proud that I am contesting from such a progressive constituency, where all the three main political parties – CPM, Congress and TMC have opted to field women candidates, despite these seats not being reserved as ‘women seat’ for the election.
eNewsroom: Your only male opponent for this seat is Chandan Kumar Bose, grandnephew of Neta Ji…
Nandini: I really don’t want to comment on his candidature. But then I want to ask him only one thing – if he is the grandnephew of Neta Ji Subhash Chandra Bose then why has he joined the BJP. Neta Ji was not pro- Hindu Mahasabha, he had clearly called it as an anti-India and pro-British group. In fact, we all know of this freedom fighter’s proximity with the Congress during India’s fight for independence.
eNewsroom: How serious do you think is BJP about women safety, given the faux pas they made in their 2019 manifesto?
Nandini: BJP has never been a pro-women party. They are the Manu vadis who believe that women are meant to be at home, produce children and take care of their family. Many BJP leaders have even given very anti-women comment. BJP in no way is for women empowerment, as a party women empowerment and women issue to feature in their political agenda.
eNewsroom: What do you think of PM Modi and his frequent visit to Bengal? How serious do you think BJP is on winning seats in Bengal?
Nandini: Given the fact that the BJP wants to form the government at the centre once again, they definitely want to win seats in Bengal to increase their prospect. But despite all of the BJP leaders making it very clear that the fight in Bengal is between BJP and TMC, we believe that some compromise has been reached between the two parties.
The fact that the centre has handled both the Sharadha and Narada scam cases so lightly makes it evident that some compromise has been reached between the two parties.
eNewsroom: What’s the agenda for your election campaign?
Nandini: Communal harmony, unemployment, slum development and ensuring that healthcare and education is not privatised, form the core of our election campaign.
Both the centre and the state government have failed to provide employment to the youths. Recently around 400 would-be teachers sat on a 29-day hunger strike near the Calcutta Press Club. Healthcare and education are sectors that should not be privatised. Here again, we have seen both the centre and state government pushing these sectors into private hands. This will definitely make education and quality healthcare facilities beyond the reach of the poor?
eNewsroom: How do you rate Subrata Baksi, the sitting MP of Kolkata Dakshin?
Nandini: One should check the details of his attendance at the Parliament and questions he raised. An Mp is entitled to claim a maximum of 25 crores various projects during his tenure, but he has been able to avail only 17 crores, which we are unable to comprehend where it has been used as the wards that we have been frequenting have witnessed little developmental work.