The Changing Left in Bengal: In Conversation With Mohammed Salim
Mohammed Salim is perhaps one of the most outspoken and charismatic leaders of the Left Front today. Known for being an articulate and argumentative politician, Salim brought the Narada tapes under Parliament scrutiny recently. The Quint caught up with him on his way to a roadshow in Howrah, West Bengal.
Salim believes that the Left will be able to capitalise on the anti-incumbency wave against the present Trinamool government. On being asked if the Left can regain its rural stronghold, Salim says that the last election, along with the subsequent panchayat and municipal elections, did not reflect the people’s mandate as they were rigged. But he doesn’t dismiss the fact that the loss of rural votes was a significant factor – something that should be corrected. He also believes that the state’s minority voters who voted for ‘poriborton’ in the last assembly elections, will come back.
On the Left’s pre-poll understanding with the Congress, Salim says that the situation in the state demanded that parties come together to oppose the Trinamool. However, he is reluctant to call it an alliance.
Salim attended a roadshow for a Janta Dal (United) candidate in Bellias Road, Howrah which turned out to be quite a sight with the Congress, CPI(M) and JD(U) flags fluttering together, and battery-operated autos covered in flexes carrying photographs of Lalu, Nitish, Rahul Gandhi, and the late communist leader and former state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu.
It seems the Left-UPA understanding is not that tacit either. Salim calls it a progressive united move to oust an autocratic regime from the state and protect democratic rights. Hence, to ensure that votes are not divided, the parties involved came to an understanding, he says.
If the Left Front comes back to power, will Salim be a possible Chief Ministerial designate? He laughs and says, “Do I look like one? I am just an activist working for the people. Don’t believe in hearsay.”
(Camera: Ritam Sengupta)