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'I?m banking on my performance'

Ajit Panja says whatever he has done for the people of his constituency were enough to earn him votes.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON APR 29, 2004 03:20 PM IST

A seasoned politician, Ajit Panja has always fielded questions with unassuming ease. Rubbishing opposition charges that he is exploiting communal sentiments to ensure a safe vote bank for the Trinamool Congress, Panja said whatever he has done for the people of his constituency were enough to earn him votes. In an interview with Romita Datta, he also sounded bullish about his party’s performance this time.

Perhaps you haven’t forgotten that you had called the Trinamool a party without any structure and being run whimsically by a person, who is dictatorial and authoritative. Now, that you have rejoined the party, what is your opinion about it?
Let me first clarify that I was never outside the Trinamool. Those who are spreading such lies should know the history. And about the party… yes, there has been a sea change since then. Mamata has graduated herself and emerged as a different personality altogether. Watch her behaviour, her movements, the way she talks and walks… today she gives a patient hearing to her party colleagues. The party is also working in a much more democratic way. Her decision to go back to the NDA government and take up the ministry as per my demand was a wise decision. After all, taking charge is a constitutional way of being able to work for the country.

What are you primarily banking on — the NDA’s feel-good, the Trinamool or Ajit Panja as an MP — for your success?
I am banking on my own performances over the years, as well as on the success story of the NDA. I will be pitting the achievements of the NDA, the performance of Ajit Panja against the failures of the Left Front. The Planning Commission has said the Left Front failed to use the Rs 5,529-crore fund, allocated for poverty-alleviation programmes. However, I exhausted the entire amount of my MPLAD fund (about Rs 21 crore) for my people. I am accessible and known for nursing my constituency. And this is why they have coined the slogan — Jokhoni daki, tokhoni pai, Ajit Panja ke abar chai.

You have been accused of raking up communal feelings. Your opponents say you are playing the Ram Krishna Paramhansa card to your Hindu voters and wearing a cap to woo Muslims. What do you have to say?
I would rather say that Mohammad Selim, the CPI(M) candidate from Kolkata North-East, is playing the Islamic card in a pernicious way. He has made videocassettes of different communal incidents, like the Babri Masjid demolition, the Gujarat riots, and is playing them in the pre-dominantly Muslim belt in Entally. He has also hired anti-socials from Watgunje to create a fear psychosis in the area.

And are you countering that by playing Ram Krishna Paramhansa?
You may say... actually by taking out peaceful processions, meeting people, addressing small gatherings.

You had campaigned for your daughter in the last Assembly byelection, but despite that, she couldn’t win. What are your chances, given the shift in Trinamool votes?
She was fighting on a Congress ticket, which has no infrastructure. My support was hardly a factor.

How many seats do you think the Trinamool will get this time?
It will do better than the last parliamentary elections. And as far as the number of seats are concerned I will be able to tell you only after the last date of withdrawal of nominations.

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