Dinesh Trivedi explains why Trinamool leaders don’t want Prashant Kishor around
- Dinesh Trivedi, who quit his Rajya Sabha seat last week, spoke out against Prashant Kishor's team that had brought in by party chief Mamata Banerjee.
On Friday (February 12), Trinamool Congress's member of Parliament Dinesh Trivedi resigned in a dramatic gesture inside the Rajya Sabha, becoming the latest to quit the party ahead of Bengal elections. In a conversation with HT's Sunetra Choudhury, Trivedi blames election strategist Prashant Kishor's team for interfering in even his tweets and also says that he couldn't deal with the corruption that was rampant in Bengal. Trivedi hasn't revealed his future plans but has praised the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Edited excerpts:
What happened that led to your dramatic resignation on Friday?
I did an emotional thing. I tried my best to salvage but I was sitting in Parliament and thinking - what am I doing? I am representing the ruling party of Bengal, I am a founder member of the Trinamool Congress, when nobody was there, when we were struggling against the might of the Left which was an ideological fight. We had asked for poriborton (change) and what is that poriborton? It is peace, prosperity and corruption-free (rule). Everybody must try and achieve that but every day I get a call that in my building, TMC goons are coming and asking for money. If you don't give money, there is violence. So, I was sitting, and I said - what am I doing here? I can't change, nobody's listening, I tried my best. There's not a single senior leader who doesn't know what's going on in my mind. The other day I was travelling with Saugato Roy and he agreed with me. He agreed with me and said - what do I do? He appeared so helpless. Politics is not master and slave or master or karamchari, but that's what it's been reduced to. And I said enough is enough. When I went inside the chamber, I didn't even have a letter written. I sat down there and wrote the letter and gave it.
Prashant Kishor's team took over my social media: Dinesh Trivedi
So the trigger was people calling from your area?
It was a combination. For instance, the PM, the Governor of West Bengal are all constitutional positions. Does it look good to start abusing all of them? And if I give a speech in Parliament, the leader of the party in Rajya Sabha tells Mamata that Dinesh Trivedi didn't abuse the PM. That I didn't speak bad of the Home Minister. Are we here to abuse them? If there's something wrong with their policies, in a civilised manner you debate.
You are referring to your tweet praising the PM ahead of your resignation?
It was much bigger. Why are we in politics? For the country. When I resigned as rail minister, I said the same thing, that country comes first before the party. That's why it was dramatic for you, but for me it was natural and all building up. For instance, my Twitter account - party takes all our details. I could have said no also, and I don't know who uses my account. With my Twitter account, they abused the PM, they abused the governor. I asked why did you do that? I had to delete it many times too.
Prashant Kishor's team tweets for you?
I don't know who tweets, but the fact is, they do take our account password details. In good faith I shared but many times I'd see abusive tweets. I had to put my foot down and asked them to delete or I would. The governor also realized that Dinesh can't use such abusive language. One day they tweeted in Hindi, abusing the PM and used a bad word. I said that firstly, I don't tweet in Hindi and this isn't my language. My image would be tarnished. They want some kind of conflict with the Centre all the time, but I don't believe in that. If the state scheme gives ₹10,000 and Centre's 15,000, you can add and give ₹25,000. But this ego of not taking Centre's funds harms Bengal which needs development. So too much violence, too much corruption...
I'll come back to the violence and corruption but to clarify you were referring to Prashant Kishor's company I-PAC when you said in Rajya Sabha that a corporate group has taken over Bengal?
I called them consultants of political parties. Have political parties become so out of touch with the people that you need a consultant? It's not a bad word but the party which I have formed, we have struggled with our blood and sweat. After coming to power, somebody's given hundreds of crores and their employees tell you what to do, how to address rallies- then I think it's a shameful thing. When Mamata fought the Left single-handedly, there were only two general secretaries- Mukul (Roy) and me - we didn't need anybody. That was the time when emotions were there, liberation and the dream of a better Bengal. And the person who was involved ( Mukul Roy) is being abused day in and day out. For what? Everyone understands the problems, but they don't have the guts. Biggest enemy are the chaploos (the sycophants).
But weren't the consultants (Prashant Kishor) also credited for Narendra Modi's 2014 win?
Has Mr Modi said that? Consultants may have a role to play but you don't sell off your role and the party. They can't decide the party strategy.
What you said about corruption, do you agree with what the BJP says about corruption in the TMC?
Why should I have to go by the BJP? The people of the state are saying it. I've never opened my mouth but let me tell you that I sent a complaint to the principal home secretary and it goes down to the police. The person who goes is told- “Sabko dena parta hai (Everyone has to be paid)”'. The other day I fired the Home secretary by saying that have you put termites everywhere? Will you let the ordinary person live? I have everything here (signalling his phone). This is an everyday affair.
You talk about violence now but isn't that a feature of Bengal politics down the ages?
A- Are you trying to say that we should have accepted that? What was poriborton? If it was business as usual, then we have cheated the people. There was no change as far as violence and corruption were concerned. It's 100-fold now. At least during the Left, we didn't see political functionaries taking money on camera. When Narada tapes came, I was the first one to tell the leader to keep all those featured out. And for that, I was kept out and made the bad guy. I was not allowed to go campaigning in 2016.
Do you think she favours her nephew Abhishek Banerjee?
I don't want to go down that route. I only think that the time has come in India that we must get out of this family business. You must give credit to the Left and also the BJP that at the very top, they don't have bhai-bhatija (brothers-nephews). It is vulgar. For someone who's just come the other day.
You mean Abhishek?
Whether it's Abhishek or someone else, don't start using the chopper to go to your constituency. It doesn't gel. He was a kid when we were struggling. I understand that he uses a lot of foul language, that's not our culture. If someone in your household leaves, you call that person. Here you start abusing. And just because the prime minister is from Gujarat, you don't have to abuse Gujaratis every day.
But aren't a lot of the people who are accused of corruption joining BJP?
You should ask them that, who am I to reply to that? I can talk about TMC and when you talk about dynastic politics - if a CM's son or daughter becomes an MLA and everybody bows to them, that's wrong. If everyone starts touching their feet, isn't that vulgar?
Is that what's happening there?
I don't want to name. Abhishek Banerjee is otherwise a very intelligent boy. India is all about Gandhi. Mamata Banerjee is praised because of her simplicity, because of her hawai chappal and way of life but you can't have a split personality. If your leaders are found in some kind of corruption, no mercy. Due process has to be followed.
Has the BJP been in touch?
When asked I said it would be a privilege to join the BJP as it is the number 1 party in the world. Sitaram Yechury is also a good friend, so is Uddhav Thackeray, I met Sharad Pawar, everybody's a friend. I have seen it all
Did the PM speak to you post the resignation?
I don't have to wait to speak to him. At least he listens, here there was nobody to listen.