Interaction with Priti Singh & Anshuman Bharti
Exclusive Interactive with Tathagata Roy Who severed as the Governor of Tripura from 2015 to 2018 and the governor of Meghalaya from August 2018 to the end of his term in August 2020. He was 6th president of the West Bengal state unit of BJP from 2002 to 2006 and a member of the BJP National Executive from 2002 until 2015.
Q. You were the President from 2002-2006 with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister but the BJP could not stand for a long run. Was there any specific reason or issue and why?
It was a very basic issue. West Bengal’s politics has always been polarised between the first party and the second party with the third and fourth party having very little chance. At that time we were in the stage of the third or fourth party. The first party was CPI(M) or the Left Front and the second party was the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Naturally, we did not have a chance so we had an electoral understanding with the TMC. We stood no chance by ourselves so we formed that electoral understanding.
Q. You were the Governor of three states- Tripura, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh- since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. You must have seen several ups and downs during that period. Would you like to share some of your experiences with us?
Tripura was fairly plain sailing. There weren’t many ups and downs except that in the 2018 election the CPM government was ousted. In fact, in Tripura inspite of the CPM government in power when I took over in 2015 and my basic political persuasion being right of centre, lot of people apprehended that I would have a lot of problems with the government but I did not have any apart from the minor problems which arise all the time in any kind of work. Unfortunately, in Meghalaya I had quite a few problems particularly with the passing of the Meghalaya Residence Safety and Security Act. I had opined that this was not within the competence of the state which irked them quite a bit because they had taken their Advocate General’s opinion that this is within the state’s power. But on a plain reading of the Constitution I found it otherwise. So I didn’t agree and sent the case to the President or the Home Ministry for further action. The CM and the government were quite upset but I was helpless as I had to go by the Constitution.
In Arunachal Pradesh where I was the Governor with additional charge for only 2 weeks or so, I had the most ups and downs as you put it. When I joined or took oath as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh in addition to Tripura, at that time the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh was KalikhoPul. He had been installed there as the previous Chief Minister NabamTuki had been ousted by a no-confidence motion passed in the assembly. But the thing is that no-confidence motion had not been moved in the assembly. It had actually been moved in a private hotel or some such hall because the Speaker of the assembly, who was NabamTuki’s cousin, he did not permit the assembly to convene. So the legislators assembled in a hotel or a hall and passed the no-confidence motion. Now NabamTuki took it to the Supreme Court and the court threw it out. Namely they said that KalikhoPul’s election is invalid. That no-confidence motion is invalid. After I took oath as the Governor, as soon as I landed in Itanagar, I was told that the Supreme Court verdict had come and a new Chief Minister will have to be chosen. So NabamTuki came and said that I am the chief minister. Meanwhile, a large number of MLAs sent me a petition saying we do not support NabamTuki. So I told NabamTuki that if you want to be installed as the chief minister, you must face the assembly for a vote of confidence within 3 days of your swearing-in. On that condition, I can swear you in. He said I can’t do it in 3 days, you must give me 3 weeks time. I said nothing doing. Then he got very upset and left. Then the next day, he came back to me with a smiling face and said that I want PemaKhandu to be the chief minister. I said fine let PemaKhandu be the chief minister. Meanwhile, some 50 MLAs had given a letter in favour of PemaKhandu. I got their signatures verified and that was okay. So I swore PemaKhandu as the chief minister. After a couple of days, PemaKhandu changed camps. Earlier he was with the Congress, now he came with the BJP. Since he had the support of the legislators nothing had to be done. The worst sequel that happened to this awful drama was that KalikhoPul committed suicide and his three wives fought among themselves. It was a very sorry thing. Luckily, I got relieved of my additional duty of Governor at that point of time.
Q. Being a Hindu leader, you’re known for your controversial statements. How would you like to defend your statements or yourself?
Controversy is the basic material of democracy. What is democracy all about but controversies. There is a government, an opposition, and the government and opposition do not see eye to eye and therefore, there are controversies. So what is so difficult about controveries? The only thing that might have generated controversies is that when I made some statements some people said that as a governor you cannot make the statement. But when I ask them to show me the provision in the Constitution which says that I cannot make the statement, then they’re nowhere visible on the horizon.
Q. The Governor’s post is one of the most honorable positions. But are you now a full time politician?
Yes. My tenure was over and as a matter of fact, in terms of Article 156(3) of the Constitution, a governor is supposed to hold the post for 5 years subject to the pleasure of the President. I held my post for longer than 5 years due to the Corona health pandemic. So I served for 5 years and 3 months. After that I left and came back here. And there is no bar either in the Constitution or in practise regarding a governor coming back to politics. Arjun Singh did it, Sheila Dixit did it, Motilal Vohra did it. I don’t see a reason why I can’t do it.
Q. What do you think about Bengal’s politics? Will Mamata Banerjee come back or will the BJP spring a surprise?
Certainly Mamata Banerjee will be ousted and the BJP will come in with a thumping majority of more than 200 seats. I am absolutely sure about this.
Q. The Home Minister has also set a target of 200 seats. So do you agree with his assessment?
Yes, absolutely. Not only that, I think the BJP will come back with more than 200 seats.
Q. RSS means BJP and BJP means RSS. How will you define it?
Well, why are there two names? Why was a BJP necessary at all? RSS could have come into politics. Why did the RSS did not come into politics and instead it is BJP which is doing politics? The two are entirely different organisations. RSS is an organization whose objective is to make human beings in a particular mould i.e. as we say in Hindi, “Hindu kenaate, Hindu samaajkojaagrukaursanghathitkarna”. This is the objective of the RSS and there is no politics about it. On the other hand, the BJP is purely a political party.
Q. What is BJP’s strategy for achieving the dream of ‘Sonar Bangla’?
How ‘Sonar Bangla’ will be brought into action is something that our manifesto is all about. So you’ve to go through the manifesto which is in the process of getting prepared. Sonar Bangla means prosperous Bangla. Our objective is to create a prosperous Bangla and that’s why we’re fighting for power. We need to follow certain policies and implement them. What these policies are and what exactly needs to be done will be documented in the manifesto.
Q. Are you expecting any losses on account of Prashant Kishor strategising for Mamata Banerjee?
You don’t expect PrashantKishor to sit idle. He is being paid, what I understand, ₹500 crores by the state Trinamool Congress. So he has to do something. God knows what he’s doing.
Q. There is an on and off relationship between the Governor JagdeepDhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. What do you think about this?
Governor JagdeepDhankhar is doing his strict constitutional duties while Mamata Banerjee and her acolytes, and these acolytes do not do anything without Mamata Banerjee’s express consent, they are constantly saying that he is a branch office of the BJP, of the central government, that he is not doing his duty, he is doing something more than permitted by the Constitution. But when asked where precisely he is going wrong, what is he doing that he is not allowed to do, they have no answer. I also had that experience when the opposition parties asked me how can a Governor say that. I said show me the provision which says that the Governor cannot do this or that.
Q. Currently, a debate is going on the farm bills. Already eight rounds of talks have taken place between the government and farmers union leaders. What do you think is the solution to this?
See this is only confined to two states- Punjab and Haryana. They are taking advantage of their proximity to Delhi. Had these states been in the position of Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, or Tamil Nadu, they could not have done this thing. Actually how these Bills breaches the rights of the farmers or gives them a disadvantage is not clear from what these people are saying. It abridges the possibilities, rights or privileges of the middlemen class who buy the farmers produce and sell it in the market- the wholesalers, the transporters, the mandi owners- these people are really hurt by the Act. So they have egged on a lot of farmers and these farmers have come with middlemen at the back and they are creating all these things. As a matter of fact, a number of farmer unions from different parts of the country have expressed support for these Bills and said that they have proceeded on the basis of these Bills and under no circumstances should these Bills be diluted. What about that? The farmers of Punjab and Haryana are not bothered about it. They’re bothered about only their interest. And again they’re not farmers but middlemen.
Q. The Supreme Court has said that it will set up a panel to have a conversation regarding the Bills. Do you think any changes can be made in the Bills?
It is too premature to hazard a guess about that. The Supreme Court’s orders will have to be carried out and after that we shall see what happens but what is alarming is that these so called farmers or middlemen are saying that we will not listen to what the Supreme Court said. So where do you go with the Supreme Court thing? I don’t see any hope or solution through the Supreme Court route.
Q. Do you think Abhishek Banerjee can be a turning point for the Trinamool Congress? If he’s jettionsed by the TMC, would it perform better?
Yes, that might be. I think Trinamool Congress’ interest should be consigned to the garbage bin. Lot of people and leaders who have broken away from the Trinamool Congress have complained that they have left the party because too much importance is being given to Abhishek Banerjee who has no qualification except for being the nephew of Mamata Banerjee and they are sore about it. Leaders are not been given due importance and that is the root of trouble. So if Abhishek Banerjee is thrown away, it is so much better for the Trinamool Congress. But since I am in the BJP, I would like Abhishek Banerjee to be there, do his best and get us more than 200 seats.