Somnath bats for alliances to take on BJP, Trinamool

Kolkata, Nov 14 (IANS) Expressing alarm over rise of “confrontationalist politics” and growing religious and political intolerance, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Saturday batted for cobbling up ‘grand alliances’ to take on the BJP at the centre and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

Speaking at an event to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, Chatterjee said the Bihar polls — where the Grand Alliance led by the JD-U, RJD and the Congress defeated the BJP — had shown the way.

“There is no doubt that attempts are being made to divide the people on communal lines. People’s right to speech, right to do cinemas, theatre, are all being attacked. It is unimaginable that someone like Girish Karnad has to face death threats.

“The worrying thing is India has reached a position where all such things are happening,” Chatterjee told the media.

He said Bihar’s Grand Alliance was a way forward to fight the growing intolerance and end the misuse of governmental power.

“In a scenario where governmental power is being misused, I feel all the opposition forces should unite to fight to end this misrule. But this fight must be for the sake of the people and not for political interests.

“Time is not for considering political or party interests rather to ponder how we can save the common people, how can we save the country,” said Chatterjee.

Asked if such a grand alliance was also needed to dismantle the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in the state, Chatterjee replied in the affirmative.

“Yes, indeed,” said the octogenarian leader.

The seminar “Jawaharlal Nehru and Modern India: Contribution and legacy”, organised by the state Congress, brought together a host of leaders from various Left parties including CPI-M Rajya Sabha member Ritabrata Banerjee, former MP Sujon Chakraborty, and leaders of the CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP as well as representatives of JD-U and RJD.

Sidelined Trinamool leader and Rajya Sabha member Mukul Roy and expelled CPI-M leader and former state minister Abdul Rezzak Mollah were also present.

Chatterjee, however, refused to comment if the presence of the leaders was an indication of any such grand alliance.

Addressing the event, Chatterjee raised alarm over growing intolerance and disrespect for dissent.

“Confrontationlist politics has sharpened religious, linguistic and casteist divisions in the society. Worryingly, political power has got polarized along the identities of caste, religion and language.

“Most alarmingly, intolerance, divisiveness and confrontation, and disrespect for dissent are increasingly vitiating the political system. Added to this, is attempts by some institutions to malign and marginalise important people’s forum with an intent to occupy larger space that what is ideally feasible or constitutionally permissible in a representative democratic system,” he said.

Harping on the ideals of Nehru, Chatterjee called for the need to ponder and address the issues of corruption, criminalisation and communalisation of politics.

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