Trinamool Congress is vying for a stake in Manipur for the first time. The party’s Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien was specially sent to the northeast state to supervise and fine-tune poll preparations. The icon of quizzing in India and the urban intellectual face of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party — which is contesting 47 of the 60 seats in the January 28 polls — says they are expecting a sparkling debut. Excerpts:
After vetoing major policies of the UPA, you are now taking on the Congress in the electoral field, especially in Manipur, where it is in power for the last 10 years… ?
People of Manipur are angry over the lack of peace and development. Trinamool is the only credible option because it has brought in development and peace in Bengal, especially in the North Bengal region.
What about your perceived lack of presence in the state?
Two years ago, we launched our party unit in Manipur. After our victory in West Bengal, Manipur looks at Mamata Di (Banerjee) as a great fighter and champion of federalism. People respect her stature and credibility. Trinamool already has five MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh and a MP in Assam. This was the natural expansion of the Trinamool’s bandwidth in the northeast.
What is your party’s stand on the Special Powers Act?
Our manifesto says our focus will be to withdraw all draconian laws. The disproportionate presence of security forces in Manipur is the main cause of anger among the common people. We will strive to gradually reduce the security forces in the state.
Do you really expect to get some seats in Manipur, where elections are highly polarised?
This will be the first time Mamata Banerjee will campaign outside Bengal. I am confident we will make a sparkling debut.