Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Sugata Bose (right) at Presidency University on Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Dec. 21: Trinamul MP Sugata Bose has said those who squandered the money of ordinary people should be punished and faith should be reposed in the justice system. The MP also indirectly suggested that his parliamentary tasks did not include disruptive protests.
Read in isolation, the carefully worded observations are truisms that few would challenge. But viewed against the events unfolding in contemporary Bengal, they assume significance and stand out against the shrill chorus in the Trinamul Congress against the Saradha probe and its daily protests in the Parliament complex.
"Financial corruption cannot be tolerated in any way in our country.... People who have squandered money belonging to ordinary people should be brought to justice and they should all be punished," Bose told reporters on the sidelines of the Presidency University convocation today. Bose, the Gardiner professor of oceanic history and affairs at Harvard University, is the chief mentor of Presidency University.
The Jadavpur MP did not make any reference to the Saradha scandal but the question he was responding to was on the arrest of Trinamul leaders in the deposit default case.
Bose then proceeded to add: "I think we should have faith in our courts, our justice system,so that justice is done."
The MP articulated such a thought in the middle of a high-decibel campaign by Trinamul against the CBI probe into the Saradha scandal. The CBI probe was ordered by the Supreme Court but the Trinamul leadership has been projecting it as an element in an alleged vendetta drive by the BJP-led government at the Centre against the Bengal government.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had gone as far as to describe the CBI court as " dhamadhara" (underling or minion, suggesting it was incapable of acting independently).
Against such a backdrop, Bose's assertion that faith should be reposed in the "justice system" - he used the phrase " bichar byabostha", encompassing not just courts but the whole structurethat includes investigating agencies -is in sharp contrast with that of the leadership.
A lateral entrant to Trinamul - a party that has repeatedly reached out beyond the traditional political pool for candidates and sometimes burnt its fingers - Bose's nuanced comments on parliamentary priorities strengthen a perception that he and the party are not on the same page.
Bose listed what he felt were his tasks in the House. "...I have tried to do the tasks that I can do - I can make speeches in Parliament, I can participate in debates, I can work as part of standing committees.... There's a lot of constructive work to do in our politics. Not everyone can do everything, so I'm trying to do the kind of work that suits my personality," he said.
The tasks he did not mention - rushing into the well of the House, raising a ruckus or sitting on dharna outside - spoke volumes on a day Trinamul announced that its MPs would "protest at the entrance to Parliament on Monday morning to condemn the irresponsible statements" of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley. The minister had yesterday accused Trinamul, without naming the party, of "obstructionism" in the Rajya Sabha.
Bose was not seen among the Trinamul MPs who recently protested on the Parliament premises with black umbrellas, red diaries and placards targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Coincidence or otherwise, Bose's comments came on the eve of Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee's trip to Chennai to meet Vaiko and take part in a rally on Tuesday to demand the declassification of the Netaji files. Bose, the great-nephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, has so far not said anything to suggest he was keen on declassification.
Bose also fielded a question on what he thought about a Bengal government advisory that Mamata's photographs on a banner should be of the same size as that of Netaji and Swami Vivekananda. The two great men can "never be compared to the current leadership", Bose said.
The following are translated excerpts from the conversation that was conducted in Bengali:
Question: Now that you are an MP, we would take the liberty of asking you a few political questions. Recently in a deposit mobilising scam, a state cabinet minister from your party and a Rajya Sabha MP have been arrested. Why are leaders from your party getting embroiled in the controversy?
Bose: Financial corruption cannot be tolerated in any way in our country. That's why I'm saying: every party is affected by corruption and we should build strong public opinion against it. People who have squandered money belonging to ordinary people should be brought to justice and they should all be punished. I think we should have faith in our courts, our justice system, so that justice is done.
Q: What is your view on the demonstration in Parliament?
Bose: In Parliament, I have been trying to do as much constructive work as possible. I have participated in almost every debate that has taken place: on the President's address, the budget, communal violence.... I had a hand in the report on the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement - everyone listened to what I had to say about that. As part of that committee, we have been able to table a unanimous report in Parliament.
That's why I have tried to do the tasks that I can do - I can make speeches in Parliament, I can participate in debates, I can work as part of standing committees.... There's a lot of constructive work to do in our politics. Not everyone can do everything; so I'm trying to do the kind of work that suits my personality."
Q: Do you believe that the CBI is being used as a political tool?
Bose: At thismoment, I will say that we should have faith in our justice system and I think the courts will take the right decisions. As I just told you, there is no place for financial corruption in our country. I believe that those who have squandered ordinary people's money, whoever they are, should be brought to justice and punished. So, I would place my faith in the justice system and ask that the courts take the right decision.
Q: Do you have faith in the investigating agency?
Bose: I have faith in the justice system.
Q: How do you look at the arrest of Madan Mitra?
Bose: I want to leave this to the justice system. They will decide (whether the arrest is justified).... I wouldn't know. I don't have the evidence before me but the court does have the evidence - so the court will decide.
Q: Is your party worried about the fallout?
Bose: See, I shall work in Parliament in the capacity of a historian-scholar, which is the way I want to work. I was at a book release yesterday and participated in a discussion with S.Y. Quraishi (former chief election commissioner), Gopalkrishna Gandhi (former Bengal governor) and Altamas Kabir (former Chief Justice of India). I read in that book that among our 543 MPs, 185 have criminal charges against them. This cannot be a very good thing for the country. So, I would say that honest and good people should come forward to serve the nation so that our politics is not tarnished further. I hope we shall be able to get rid of this taint.
Q: The youth and welfare department has advised organisers of a programme to ensure the photographs of Mamata Banerjee, Netaji and Swamiji are of the same size...
Bose: I would only say that great men like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose or Swami Vivekananda are at a completely different level. They can never be compared to the current leadership.