Kolkata: Dr Fuad Halim, the Sanyukta Morcha candidate from Ballygunge constituency in West Bengal assembly polls, is again contesting against one of the heavyweights of Bengal politics, Subrata Mukharjee. Dr Fuad, known as the Good Samaritan doctor or people’s doctor, was in the news during the lockdown for providing dialysis service for Rs 50 only and for being a six time plasma donor during the ongoing covid crisis. Son of Bengal Assembly’s longest service speaker, late Hashim Abdul Halim, Dr Fuad has come of age as a politician in his own right and has carved a niche for himself as a man who stands by the needy and downtrodden irrespective of their political affiliations. In this interview, he spoke to eNewsroom on topics ranging from the secular credentials of the Indian Secular Front (ISF)’s founder Abbas Siddiqui to how both PM Narendra Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee failed people in handling the covid crisis. He also discussed about CPM and Sanyukt Morcha campaign and how his campaign is issue-based and not on the lines of religion or misplaced and pretentious national pride.
eNewsroom: You always have been pitted against heavyweight candidates, who have a battery of star campaigners that include PM, HM, Cabinet Ministers and Chief minister to bank on. Juxtaposed against this, how strong is your candidature?
Dr Fuad: We have BJP’s eight years of misrule and have seen how Trinamool Congress has helped the growth of communal forces in the last ten years. The TMC claims to have done good work in the last ten years but they do not want to share the details. So clearly they have done nothing and have nothing to show to the people.
We have a direct question. Show us the development work done by your government. Both the ruling governments at the State and the Centre are ignoring it and are not answering why development work has stopped in the last ten years. The Left will focus on development instead of creating crisis one after another in the name of religion or misplaced nationalism.
There are 7.5 lakhs government jobs lying vacant in Bengal alone. Of which 5.5 lakh are state government jobs in different departments. These include posts of teachers, Madarsa service commission’s 92000 posts, 22,000 posts in Kolkata Municipal Corporation that are all lying vacant. Imagine the number of families and unemployed youth who stand to benefit if these vacancies are filled up. If the Left forms the government our first priority will be to fill up these posts rightaway.
The second vital issue is that there is no control over inflation. Rise in fuel prices is at the core of the inflation that we are facing. It includes the high taxes that we are being made to pay.
For example, if we are buying petrol at Rs 90 a litre, Rs 55 is the tax amount that we are having to pay. The actual petrol price is only Rs 35. Half of that tax amount is being taken by Mr Modi and the other half is being taken by Mamata Banerjee. Such taxation is bleeding people dry.
The Sunyukt Morcha government will reduce the state government’s tax. And the Aamdani Athanni, Kharcha Rupaya Kaal (period of earning less and spending more), situation will be tackled head on.
We will also ensure that 200 units of subsidised electricity is available to every household.
We want to place serious issues before the people, not go on an overdrive of ego centric issues and false propaganda.
The centre and the state government are not talking about their 8 years and 10 years’ misrule, but just saying Khela Hobe and BJP is involved in this game.
eNewsroom: Sanyukta Morcha and you are trying to do issue-based campaigning, unlike other parties which are focusing on the religious symbol or the Bengali pride. Will that not hamper your chances since the public seems to be getting swayed by emotions?
Dr Fuad: We are doing door to door campaigning. During the campaigning an elderly woman told me, with tears in her eyes, that she educated her daughters with great difficulty. But despite their high education they are barely earning Rs 4000 to 6000 per month. How will a house run on this meager amount?
I met a tailor during the campaigning, I asked him if the haat (marketplace) has opened. He said yes, but I don’t have the money to go to the haat. During the lockdown, I spend all my savings and now I don’t have the money to purchase clothes, buttons, thread etc needed to make dresses.
Such is the situation in Ballygunge, Kolkata. In West Bengal people have no purchasing power now and there are no opportunities for work, while expenses are rising. People are being attacked from both sides. Is there any need to pick up issues from outside? This is the day-to-day story of every household in Bengal.
eNewsroom: This time it seems, Sanyukta Morcha, especially CPIM, is giving a spirited fight. They have put young candidates in the fray. They are using innovative ways, like flash mob and using popular Bollywood dialogues for campaigning. How will these help you?
Dr Fuad: The youth have always used their style and language to express their feelings. And during the present time, all across the country, youth are the ones most affected. So they are evaluating the situation and responding in their languages. The youth are also vichlit (worried) because of the situation in West Bengal. During the Brigade rally also it was clear that the youth of Bengal are worried. So the youth, especially associated with CPM and the Morcha, are in large numbers and are expressing their views, wishes and concerns in their inimitable style.
They are making videos and other campaign materials for communist parties. And the way they are being liked on social media, it definitely is making an impact across Bengal and Ballygunge constituency as well. So it is their (youth) way of connecting with the people.
Watch the interview here:
eNewsroom: You are well known as a secular person, someone who has great knowledge about secularism. You also give lectures on secularism in seminars. But Sanyukt Morcha’s partner Indian Secular Front (ISF) leader Abbas Siddiqui, is a Muslim cleric and many people say that he is not secular, how do you respond to that?
Dr Fuad: If we recall, in Indian political history, there have been very few people who come from religious backgrounds and spoke strongly about secularism. We have had the likes of Maulana Hashrat Mohani, Maulana Azad, who kept their religious identity intact and also talked publicly about upholding the Indian constitution.
We have seen in Bengal that religious leaders when they come on stage, they talk about religion from a political angle, but the leaders of ISF are keeping their religion inside their heart and giving the same respect to India’s Constitution and voicing the same. When they come on stage, they talk about the Constitution, giving priority to the issues of employment, education, equality and inflation. They are raising solid issues. So it is an important phase in Bengal politics, where people from religious background are talking about the Constitution.
eNewsroom: Being a doctor, what would you say about the management of the Covid crisis by Modi as well as the Mamata government? It has been said that PM Cares fund was not used properly, and there was corruption in the purchase of ventilators.
Dr Fuad: First of all, I should tell you that India has entered into the second wave of Covid, but the Indian government does not want to accept this reality. Yesterday alone one lakh covid cases were registered which is a record in itself. And the figure is only of eight states. If it continues this way, the situation will be worse than last year. Both the Central and State governments have forced people to take the health issue into their own hands.
If the vaccination drive was handled well, and if during the gap of the first and second wave vaccination was administered to people, we would have entered the herd immunity phase. So far only 7 crore people have got the first dose, the second dose has been given to only 1.5 crore people.
110 crore people, out of the 130 crores population, have neither received vaccination nor have they been exposed to the virus so they lack awareness on how to deal with the virus. These people are more vulnerable in the second wave of Covid-19. Both the Modi and the State governments have failed and people have to bear the brunt of it. I will urge the people to wear masks, wash hands regularly and, if there is no urgency, avoid going to crowded places, irrespective of whether they are vaccinated or not.