Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019, there's hope and scope for Federal Front: Mamata Banerjee tells News18

Speaking to News18 in an exclusive interview Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hit out at Narendra Modi's brand of divisive politics and claimed that she had excellent relations with regional leaders across India.

FP Staff April 19, 2019 11:27:56 IST
Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019, there's hope and scope for Federal Front: Mamata Banerjee tells News18
  • The Modi government has not been able to implement what it had promised in the last five years, said Mamata Banerjee

  • Can you solve a poor man's problems by giving him a gas stove, the Bengal chief minister asked

  • I don't want to talk about Article 370 because it affects Kashmir's prestige, said Banerjee

For Mamata Banerjee, the Bharatiya Janata Party is hardly the main Opposition in West Bengal, a state which she believes will stand up to the allegedly divisive politics peddled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Coming down as heavily on the BJP dispensation as she did on Congress and the CPM, the West Bengal chief minister spoke to Network 18 editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi in an exclusive interview within which she touched upon everything from a Trinamool successor to why she walks 10 kilometres a day.

The full text of the televised interview is produced below:

Q: Mamata ji, thank you for speaking to News18 network. Your interview will be aired on 20 channels across the country. Many are calling this a make or break election for you. It could make you a prime minister or you could lose West Bengal. How are you seeing the 2019 battle?

A: There is no question of breaking. BJP will lose its two seats in Bengal. And why speak of "make"? So many regional parties are now national parties. TMC has now become a national party, so has the NCP, the SP and the BSP. We will jointly decide our strategy. Gaining or losing is not the point. Saving the nation is our first priority, not individual goals.

Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019 theres hope and scope for Federal Front Mamata Banerjee tells News18

Mamata Banerjee speaks to News18 on Thursday. News18

Q: What are the real issues In West Bengal? What are your campaign issues?

A: This is the Lok Sabha election and not an Assembly election The Modi government has not been able to implement what it had promised in the last five years. That is our main election issue. We have done a lot of work in Bengal. We are the only party which has implemented everything that we promised in our manifesto. In fact, we have done more than we had promised.

Q3: How would you rate the Modi government's five years?

A: There are a thousand things I can say. Modi sarkar has done nothing for farmers. Twelve thousand farmers committed suicide in the last five years. There were massive farmers' protests. In Bengal, we tripled farmers' incomes. Modi ji only talks. He's promised to double farmers' incomes by 2022. But we've already waived mutation fees in Bengal. We've already abolished khajna tax. Our Kisan Bandhu scheme gives a Rs 5,000 allowance to farmers. They have a free insurance scheme. We gave Rs 2 lakh insurance for farmers who died. But Modi ji has done nothing. Why did he ignore farmers? The entire country depends on farmers and labourers. The second issue is unemployment. The unemployment rate is at its highest in 45 years. The Modi government's manifesto had promised 10 crore jobs over five years. Instead of that, he took away at least two crore jobs. The third issue is demonetisation, which crippled our economy. From traders to small scale industries to farmers, demonetisation hit everyone. Many industries shut down, crores of people lost their jobs. Demonetisation was a bad decision. He even promised to crack down on terrorism but failed. Terrorism has increased by 260 percent. The Modi government promised to bring back black money stashed overseas and give everyone Rs 15 lakh. Not a single person has received that Rs 15 lakh. Fuel prices kept increasing even when international prices were low. They didn't think about the common man. They removed the subsidy on domestic gas and hiked the cost of each cylinder to Rs 800. If a poor man buys a cylinder for Rs 800, he will have nothing left. How will he make ends meet? There are several issues.

Q: So Ujjwala, Jan Dhan, Swachhata...

A: There has been no Ujjwala or anything. What has Ujjwala scheme done? Can you solve a poor man's problems by giving him a gas stove? He has to buy gas every month, he doesn't get that for free. Where does he have the money to buy a Rs 800 cylinder? All these schemes are an eyewash. Poor people must get benefits everyday. What happened to Jan Dhan scheme? It needs proper investigation. I saw a central government report that says more than four lakh suspicious accounts have been identified. The Centre invested a lot of money in the Jan Dhan scheme. No one knows where that money is. Demonetisation is a huge scandal. We must launch a probe into its real purpose.

Q: Mamata ji, BJP won 73 seats in Uttar Pradesh, this time they are focusing on West Bengal. Out of 42 seats in Bengal, how many are you confident of winning?

A: We will win 42 out of 42.

Q: Is this your election slogan?

A: This is the election slogan of the people of Bengal. The more they target Bengal, the easier it gets for us.

Q: If you look at the vote share, BJP's vote share has increased from 1o percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2014.

A: See, some CPM leaders have joined the BJP. There is an Opposition party and then a ruling party. We are the ruling party and we are at number one. Now if the CPM, Congress or BJP emerges as the Opposition that will decide their vote share. Many CPM workers have joined the BJP, even Congress workers have defected to BJP. Because BJP is in power at the Centre they are able to intimidate people with the CBI and ED. When they lose power, everyone will abandon them.

Q: So you think the BJP is the main Opposition party in Bengal?

A: No, I don't think so. The BJP has only three seats in the assembly and two in the Lok Sabha. They are welcome to dream. But the reality is different. They fool people with lies. They don't have the spirit for real vision. It's easy to make promises. This time, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh will be critical. These two states will make the government. Even in other states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, the BJP will not be able to win a single seat. They won't win any seats in Punjab or Delhi. Even in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, BJP's seats will be reduced to 60 or 40. So where will they get seats from?

Q: Amit Shah said that BJP will win more than 23 seats in Bengal. Modi ji agrees.

A: They won't be able to win a single seat. What do they think, that whatever they say will come true? They won't even get a single seat in Bengal. They attack institutions, abuse people. It doesn't look good when the PM abuses people. I don't consider Amit Shah worthy of being a block president, let alone a party president. He has no powers. He holds the post because Modi ji put him there. I can accept senior leaders like Advani ji, Murli Manohar Joshi ji. I worked with Vajpayee. You may feel Amit Shah is a leader, I don't think so, neither do the people.

Q: Mamata ji, you have a headstart here. The Muslim community is 30 percent of the vote. The BJP has accused you of playing appeasement politics which is why the Muslims vote for you.

A: The CPM was in power before me. How did they manage to win the Muslim vote? Here in Malda, the minority vote goes to the Congress. Unlike the BJP, we don't believe in divide and rule. As many as 23.6 percent of Bengal's voters are scheduled castes. Our tribal population is 5.9 percent, the Muslim population is 30 percent, the rest are Hindus. We work for everyone. The BJP has no respect even for Hinduism. They are polarising Hindu voters. They want to create a new religion altogether, one that doesn't believe in Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekanand or the ancient scriptures. They've imported this fake religion and want to impose it on everyone. I'm a Hindu too but I am against the BJP's idea of Hinduism. I respect every religion, be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist or Jain. India is a diverse nation. Andhra has a different culture, diet and language. Look at Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Odisha, Bihar. We want to keep everyone united because this is India's real culture. Saare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara. The BJP only wants to attack people. They have stopped serving non-vegetarian food on Air India. Why are they trying to control our food habits? They can't dictate our choices. What i want to eat is my right. Would I ever tell a vegetarian to eat non-veg? It depends on people's tastes. Some prefer rice, some chapati, some want dhokla, some eat meat or fish. Who is the BJP to decide on what we should eat and what we shouldn't?

Q: Let's assume that your party wins all 42 seats in Bengal. Then TMC will be among the top 3 parties with BJP and Congress because many parties are not even fighting so many seats. What will be your game plan if you win all 42 seats? Will you support Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate and ensure other parties also support him?

A: We can't talk about it now but one thing is clear. Our party has always been number three. If you consider ruling parties then we are at number four. We will definitely retain our number three position. This is not a matter that I can decide, we need to decide together. Whether it's Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Bihar or Assam, we will all sit down and choose our leader together, based on the common minimum programme. I can't predict what is going to happen. I don't want to comment on the PM face right now. I believe in collective leadership. We will do it together

Q: So why didn't the mahagathbandhan form earlier? All of you met at HD Kumarasawamy's swearing-in ceremony

A: This is not about mahagathbandhan. The situation keeps changing. When Jayprakash Narayan brought parties together, he created that environment. When he wanted to defeat Indira Gandhi, different groups came together. Indira ji was a very strong leader. But she was ousted ultimately. The message was very clear. The message is also very clear today. Whether Indira ji was able to achieve her garibi hatao mission or not, the message reached the grassroots. I don't know if the sterilisation drive took place or not but people got the message. I don't know if Rajiv Gandhi was guilty in the Bofors scam. There's no evidence against him. But the message was delivered to the masses. Now whatever Narendra Modi is doing, people have got the message. 'chowkidar' is a household word today. He earlier pitched himself as a chaiwala, but now he is a chowkidar. Why did he change his chaiwala poll pitch? You can't drink the same tea twice, it turns poisonous. That's why he's turned chowkidar. We want a chowkidar who really works for the country, who we respect, a loyal patriot. He spent four and half years of his five year term abroad, ignoring the nation. Look at the economy. He made so many election promises, but look at what's in your own bank account. You need to review the rbi's status, the economic situation. He didn't look at anything in the last five years. And Arun Jaitley seems to be the latest runner in a relay race. Sometimes it's him, sometimes it's someone else. The finance ministry is a relay race.

Q: There is a lot of talk about a federal front, are you in touch with Chandrababu Naidu, KCR, Akhilesh, Tejashwi?

A: Yes, absolutely. I am in touch with all of them.

Q: And everyone is okay with the idea of forming a federal front?

A: Yes, we are together. I have good relations with everyone.

Q: You don't want to comment on the PM face but a leader will emerge among these contenders?

A: Yes, whoever will be chosen by everyone will be the PM face

Q: So you are in touch with everyone?

A: Yes, I am on good terms with everyone. I have good relations with BJP leaders as well. Whenever I am in Delhi, I enquire after Advani ji. He is a senior leader. I used to ask about Vajpayee ji regularly. I stay in touch with Murli ji. I speak to Sushma ji at times. I am in touch with a lot of old and new leaders. I was a seven-time MP and three-time minister, I was the railway minister twice. I was also the minister for women and child development, sports, coal and mines. I am in touch with leaders from every state.

Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019 theres hope and scope for Federal Front Mamata Banerjee tells News18

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee with her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal. Reuters

Q: What about Mayawati ji?

A: I have an excellent relation with Mayawati ji.

Q: What do you think of Mayawati's appeal to Muslims when she urged them to only vote for her?

A: The Supreme Court has pronounced its verdict on this so I don't want to comment. All I can say is, I ask everyone to vote for me.

Q: But the election commission has imposed a temporary ban on Yogi Adityanath, Mayawatiji, Azam Khan...

A: EC is an impartial institution and I don't want to question its actions. But Mayawati and Yogi had different agendas. Mayawati ji spoke from her heart but Yogi's remarks were more dangerous than Mayawati's.

Q: Mayawati ji has said that EC is not an impartial institution.

A: I don't want to comment on that. Though I have noticed that whatever happens, is usually whatever the BJP wants. But I will refrain from commenting on a constitutional institution. I respect it.

Q: Let's talk about Assembly elections, which are in a few years. If BJP's vote share continues to go up like this, then will it be a big challenge?

A: Nothing is going to happen. We had 30 percent vote share in 2004, but only one seat out of 42. The BJP got 31 percent in 2014 and they formed the government in Delhi. So it doesn't work like that.

Q: So you are saying that even if their vote share increases it doesn't necessarily convert to votes?

A: So it doesn't. Someone's vote-share is bound to go up. Who will get the Congress' vote-share? The BJP, Congress and CPM work together in Bengal. BJP supports CPM in some seats. Congress backs BJP in some seats. The RSS strongman in Malda works for Congress. I hear it's like that in Punjab too. The RSS is working against us. Why are they getting into politics? They should parrot their RSS philosophy. They should stick to social service. Why should they provide their services to all parties like a shopping mall? This is not right. We don't accuse sadhus and monks from other missions. We respect them. But it is the RSS which is playing a political role. They support the BJP and instigate riots. This is not right. We don't expect this from the RSS.

Q: Mamata ji, you are a national leader as you have had a profile beyond Bengal. Do you think nationalism has become the main election agenda or it is being turned into a poll plank?

A: The standard of election campaigning has deteriorated this time. If the PM speaks courteously then our politics will be civil. If the PM uses questionable language, what can you expect from others? The standard of political talk has to improve. Everyone has to show some control, including me. We must respect our democracy. We can't say anything we want just because it's election season. Everyone must follow the model code of conduct.

Q: Do you think nationalism has become more of an election issue after the Balakot airstrike?

A: Not at all. I don't want to use Balakot airstrike as an election issue. I am very sad about the deaths of so many of our jawans. But why did the government ignore the intelligence report? Why did so many of our jawans die? Why has terrorism increased? There are so many questions. We had asked Modi ji for an all-party meeting to brief us on this issue. But he didn't. He only held a meeting with parliamentary leaders. But that is not same as calling an all-party meet. Now they are using it to get votes. BJP says it's 'Modi ka sena' but the army belongs to everyone. We respect our jawans. They sacrificed their lives for us. Why should we use this as a poll plank? They must be used for the sake of the country, for the world. We are proud of them. But what the BJP is doing is not right at all.

Q: Why is there so much bitterness between you and Modi? In 2014, neither of you attacked each another like this. On one occasion, he even called you his sister.

A: I also call him my brother. I do it for the sake of courtesy. But the kind of language he uses in public is a threat to democracy. Morning shows the day. The way they talk is very bad, very bad.

Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019 theres hope and scope for Federal Front Mamata Banerjee tells News18

Mamata said the kind of language Prime Minister Narendra Modi uses in public is a threat to democracy. PTI

Q: What do you think about the national register of citizens?

A: I don't support the NRC. We opposed this even in the standing committee meeting. Now it's gone to the selection committee. I never supported the NRC because the law is discriminatory. Secondly, non-Muslim migrants will be considered foreigners for five to six years. Even after that there's uncertainty over whether or not they will get citizenship. There is a huge question mark over that. This is not right. We are already citizens of this country, why should we have to prove it again? This is wrong.

Q: BJP has promised to implement the citizenship bill and it's perhaps an attempt to attract Hindu voters in Bengal. What do you have to say about this?

A: Bengali Hindus are very cultured. So are Bengal's Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. During the move to divide Bengal in 1905, Rabindranath Tagore started a movement. He composed the song 'Banglar mati Bnglar jol, Banglar bayu Banglar phol'. He brought in a new version of Raksha Bandhan where hundreds of Hindus and Muslims tied rakhis on each others' wrists. This is the spirit of Bengal. No matter how hard BJP tries, we are unbreakable. Muslims celebrate Durga Puja, Hindus celebrate Ramzan. So many Hindus celebrate Christmas. Everyone comes together for tribal festivals. In so many places, Durga Puja committees are headed by Muslims. Bengalis are united. BJP doesn't know about Bengali Muslims and that is their problem. They don't know the abcd of Bengal

Q: So you are saying that Urdu and Bengali co-exist?

A: The Urdu-speaking upcountry Muslims are somewhat different from Bengali Muslims. Bengali Muslims celebrate pujas with Hindus in villages. The Muslims elsewhere who speak Hindi and Urdu are different. Hindi-speaking Muslims celebrate Chhath Puja, Urdu-speaking Muslims celebrate Eid. West Bengal is a cosmopolitian state. People from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab live here. Everyone takes part in every festival. That is our cosmopolitian culture. So many Marwaris, Gujaratis live here. Everyone comes together for Dandiya and Navratri.

Q: PM Modi has called the mahagathbadhan a 'mahamilavat'. He says it's based not on a common vision but on opportunism. What's your reaction?

A: Why is he so arrogant? A leader can't be so arrogant. A leader must lead the people, not just himself. He's got a biopic based on him, he's launched NaMo shops, NaMo TV. Why? Real leaders must be like Gandhi ji, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Guru Nanak. A leader shouldn't speak only of his own achievements. Here in Bengal we believe it's embarrassing to blow your own trumpet. We are only leaders if people see us as leaders. Our popularity comes from the people. But Modi ji is busy building himself up. He's even disrespected a senior leader like Advani ji. He didn't even give him a ticket. When Modi needed Advani's help, he took it. But now Advani ji has been totally sidelined and he's so upset. I don't know about the internal affairs of the BJP but I respect Advani. Even Vajpayee ji, who was housebound towards the end, was not treated well. I don't want to talk about this, but I will write about it.

Q: what about the Priyanka Gandhi factor? She's become active in politics for the first time.

A: I don't want to comment on any individual. But I love Priyanka, she is Rajiv Gandhi's daughter. I have some affection for her.

Q: You said that Rahul Gandhi was a kid...

A: He is the Congress president, so I cannot comment on him.

Q: You also said that Rahul Gandhi was the biggest asset of PM Modi in 2016...

A: Show me the statement.

Q: I don't have the copy.

A: I want to see in what context I made that statement.

Q: You said this when Congress lost a series of elections.

A: See, I don't want to elaborate on that statement. This is not the time for that.

Q: Rahul Gandhi has scaled down his attacks on CPM in Kerala and SP-BSP. But he is rigorously campaigning against you and your party in Bengal.

A: What should I do? Rahul Gandhi is following whatever Narendra Modi is doing. This is their attitude. But I am not like them. Rahul Gandhi abuses me like Narendra Modi does. What should I do? I want to work in tandem with other states. All regional leaders are my friends.

Q: How is your relationship with Sonia Gandhi?

A: Rajiv Gandhi's wife Sonia ji and I share a cordial relationship.

Neither NDA nor UPA will form govt in 2019 theres hope and scope for Federal Front Mamata Banerjee tells News18

A 2011 image of Mamata with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. AFP

Q: Do you hope to sit down after the elections and chalk out a plan to work together?

A: I don't want to comment on that. I will follow what other political parties decide

Q: The congress campaign on the national level says 'ab nyay hoga'. Their scheme promises Rs 6,000 a month to the poorest of poor.

A: See, when we plan the common minimum agenda, everyone's opinions will be taken into consideration. I can't decide on what we will do. All parties will be taken into confidence. When we win the polls, we will sit together and decide on each point in the common minimum agenda.

Q: So you don't want to say anything about this scheme?

A: No, because Congress will not be able to form a government alone. How will they do it? All state parties are very strong now. I am telling you, neither NDA nor UPA will form the government. Maybe a new combination will take shape. Wait for that. I am not an astrologer, so I can't predict the future. But I can tell you that all the federal states will be fighting together. So there is hope and scope to form the government with these strong forces.

Q: Mamata ji, the Kashmir issue has taken centrestage. You said that the Kashmir problem can be solved peacefully. What is your opinion on Article 35A and Article 370?

A: I don't want to talk about Article 370 because it affects Kashmir's prestige. We had a Maoist insurgency problem in Jungle Mahal in West Bengal. Four hundred people were killed in one year. BJP is unable to control the Maoist problem in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. But we weeded out Maoists from Bengal. We have completely solved the Maoist problem. You have to work on the problem with a will, taking the people into confidence. I allude to this because the government must speak to Kashmiris, and take them into confidence to arrive at a peaceful solution to the crisis. I am not a negative person, I am always positive.

Q: But do you think Article 35A and Article 370 should be scrapped?

A: Who am I to decide this? Kashmiris are in my heart, I respect them immensely. Kashmiris must decide on this. I am not going to say anything against this because there are so many issues with hill people. I have Darjeeling, there are issues in northeastern states as well. I don't agree with the BJP.

Q: So you don't agree with scrapping Article 35A and Article 370?

A: Don't put BJP's words in my mouth.

Q: What is your opinion on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act?

A: I won't comment on this as it is not related to the elections.

Q: All parties have promised to focus on women empowerment, but TMC is the only party which has fielded 41 percent women candidates.

A: Earlier, when parties talked about 33 percent women's reservation, the TMC had 35 percent women representatives in the 2014 Lok Sabha. This time we have fielded 41 percent women representatives. It is the highest in India and I am very happy about it. We have 50 percent reservation for women in Panchayat and Municipal polls. We respect women and I have launched several schemes to empower them. So every woman will support me. Other parties have given just five to six tickets out of 42 to women, we have given the maximum. I have even given a ticket to a Rajasthani in Uttar Dinajpur. And I have given seven seats to minorities.

Q: Mamata ji, you lead a very simple life, but the Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi schemes...

A: These are CPM-era scams. Not a single scam has happened during my tenure. BJP is running a malicious campaign against me. The scams date back to 1980, during the CPM tenure. But investigations started after we came to power in 2011. My government arrested the scam accused from Kashmir. We returned Rs 300 crore to the exchequer. We set up a judicial commission. My government arrested the accused and took action. The truth is, CBI started its probe five years ago, in 2014. Its now 2019. Can't the CBI solve a single case? Nothing took place during our tenure, I can guarantee that. It is CPM's baby, BJP's baby, Congress's baby, not ours. We have done nothing wrong. I can challenge that. It is an absolutely wrong campaign. The matter is sub judice and the CBI has not reached a final decision. They have been instructed to delay the case. I can raise questions on Rafale but I want to maintain the democratic system. I could have said 'ghar ghar mein shor hai, BJP chor hain' but I didn't. If they attack, I can retaliate. But I don't want to do that.

Q: Customs officials say...

A: This is a personal matter, please don't question me on this. Arun Jaitley is behind this. I can challenge you, nothing is there. I will not say anything because the matter is sub judice. But don't question me on this. It will be proved that this is a gameplan of Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley. The girl is a Punjabi, she doesn't understand Bengali. When you love a girl, you don't go into her caste or background. They are playing a dirty game. I don't want to say anything because the girl has gone into depression now. She is not okay and she is pregnant. Don't ask me these questions. We don't believe in playing dirty politics.

Q: Mamata ji, who will be your political successor?

A: I have planned up to five generations. Those in our generation will continue for 15 to 20 years. Then there is a second, third and fourth generation. I am trying to settle the fifth generation. I welcome the young, since we won't be here for so long. I want students, new voters, the young generation to come forward. The country will develop when the young generation takes charge. I want the youth to come forward.

Q: And your nephew Abhishek Banerjee?

A: He is no one. No one from my family is in a leadership position. Abhishek didn't want to join politics, he was in a job, but I made him join my party. Now he enjoys it. When he was two years old, I was brutally attacked by CPM workers and was about to die. Parliament was adjourned. I had to undergo a brain surgery. There were 46 stitches on my head, and my hand was broken. My nephew saw me in that state and made up his mind to support me. He is an elected representative and a people's leader.

Q: Mamata ji, how do you propose to attract corporate investments into West Bengal? Just Rs 15000 crore of the Rs 5 lakh crore investment in the last five to six years has gone to Bengal.

A: This data is wrong. My capital expenditure has gone up 11 percent. My gross state domestic product is six percent higher than the Centre's. Amit Mitra can give you the details. My revenue earnings have tripled. Seven years ago, it was Rs 21,000 crores now it is about Rs 63,000 crores. As far as unemployment is concerned, nearly two crore people have lost their jobs nationwide. But in Bengal, the unemployment rate has gone down 40 percent. It is our achievement. We have achieved 144 crore working Mondays. We top states providing work under MGNREGA. We are number one in rural road construction. We top in skill training and in providing scholarships to minorities. We are number one in MSME growth. We have won the Kisan Award from the Centre six years in a row. My Kanyashree programme has won the United Nations Public Service award. The UN has selected the Utkarsh Bangla project for skill development, where we give training and jobs to six lakh youth every year. There are many similar schemes.

Q: You know the numbers better than Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra!

A: I am aware of some numbers. Amit da is a very good finance minister. He is doing a lot. We are number one in e-governance, as also in the it sector. We are replicating Silicon Valley. We have already opened an international convention centre in Kolkata. Now we are opening one in Digha. We are emerging as a financial hub. Everything has been created in Bengal. So Bengal is number one in India. And Gujarat model is a big lie. That's why their industrial meet was a big flop. And our event was attended by everyone, from Mukesh Ambani to Sajjan Jindal to Sanjeev Goenka and Lakshmi Mittal.

Q: We saw you handle administrative affairs while walking down the streets. How many hours do you walk a day?

A: It depends on time, I don't get time during elections. I walk an average of 20 kilometres. I love walking. I started walking everyday in 2006 when I observed a hunger strike for farmers. I didn't drink water for 26 days. My health deteriorated after that. My kidney was about to damage. I only drank water for three months. And after that my doctor advised me to walk regularly. So from that day I have been walking on the treadmill everyday. I workout on the treadmill for 10 kilometres and the rest I walk normally.

Q: I heard that you are a very good cook?

A: A lot of people are fans of my cooking. Women cook good food. Agar koi namak zyada dal de toh khana kaisa hoga? Agar koi mithai zyada dal de, toh khana kaise hoga. Even men are good cooks. There are so many restaurants. Cooking is an art, I love cooking.

Q: What is your favourite dish?

A: I love everything.

Q: I heard that you are also a painter. During your leisure time do you also compose music?

A: Yes, in the last eight years, I have been receiving a pension of Rs 75,000. I have not withdrawn even a single penny. My whole life I have travelled onthe economic class. I have saved a lot of money. I have not taken a single month's salary as the chief minister. I didn't even buy a new car. I spend my own money whenever I have to stay in a guest house. I earn Rs 1 lakh as CM, my pension is now about Rs 1 lakh, so I get 2 lakh rupees a month. I drink tea with my own money. How do I manage this? I have published 86 books. Most of my books are best sellers. I donate the money that I receive through my paintings. I don't have a single penny in my account. But the music that I compose, I earn through that. I am also able to sustain myself with the money that I receive after selling my books. It's not a lot of money though. Indranil Aen, who is the number one singer in Bengal, gave me a royalty of Rs 3 lakh rupees. I earned Rs 11 lakhs after some of my books became best sellers. What will I do with so much money?

Q: You are loved by all but at the same time a lot of people are scared of your anger? Mamata ji ko gussa kyu aata hain?

A: Those who speak the truth are easily angered. I get angry when there is injustice and when I'm trying to prevent it. Those who prefer agitation are easily angered. I get angry when i see atrocities against the common man. I don't get angry easily. I saw Narendra Modi walking out of an interview with Karan Thapar. I don't do such things. If I have to say something I say it out loud. For instance, the media openly backs Narendra Modi, you also need to maintain a balance. You must echo people's sentiments. The media only covers BJP and Modi these days. Thanks to you for taking my interview. I usually refrain from giving interviews because there is no use.

Q: Mamata ji, thank you for speaking to us. We wish you all the best for the upcoming elections.

A: I thank News18 for their work across the country. I am proud of journalists. You have travelled a long way and allowed me to have my say. I thank you for that. And I invite you to taste the Malda mango, it's famous. And I invite you to Bengal. It's far removed from Delhi's politics.

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Presidential poll: Mamata Banerjee unlikely to attend opposition meet convened by Sharad Pawar on 21 June

Presidential poll: Mamata Banerjee unlikely to attend opposition meet convened by Sharad Pawar on 21 June

Mamata Banerjee won't be able to attend the upcoming Presidential poll due to prior engagements, a TMC functionary said .

10 new terms in the glossary of Indian ‘liberals’ which you must know

10 new terms in the glossary of Indian ‘liberals’ which you must know

These new terms are being dropped like birthday toffees by columnists, social media influencers and assorted jihad sympathisers and the anti-India cabal

Coal scam: ED questions Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee's wife

Coal scam: ED questions Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee's wife

The investigation is linked to an FIR filed by CBI in 2020 in a multi-crore rupees pilferage scam. CBI has so far questioned Rujira Narula Banerjee twice in connection with the scam