Kolkata, Aug 26: Accusing a section of the Congress and AIUDF of being in cahoots with the BJP in Assam, TMC leader Sushmita Dev has said there is a "vacuum" in the opposition space in the state and the Northeast which her new party can fill.
Dev, who was one of the national spokespersons of the Congress and its women's wing chief, switched over to the TMC last week. She feels her joining the TMC will not come in the way of an alliance between the two parties at the national level as "politics is not about charity". She said the Congress, too, is inducting people from other parties.
"It is indeed a big change and step in my thirty-year-old political career. Politics is also about being relevant and serving the people. Certain decisions that the Congress took in the greater interest of the party had a negative impact in the area from where I come. I had felt that if we lose the 2021 election, we won't have the face to ask the electorate to vote for us again," Dev told PTI in an interview.
The former Congress MP from Assam's Silchar questioned the "intent" of the Congress and opposition parties like the AIUDF to fight against the BJP in Assam and the Northeast.
"We allied in Assam to defeat the BJP. But what was demoralising was that after we lost the elections, several leaders of Congress, AIUDF and some other opposition parties started praising the chief minister. A section of leaders of these opposition parties is hand in gloves with Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam CM).
"My question is if the mainstream opposition parties have joined hands with the BJP, then where is the opposition in Assam. Who will oppose the anti-people policies of the BJP?" she asked.
Noting that revival of the Congress in Assam and the Northeast is a tough task, Dev said, "There are some defeats from which you can recover and stand on your feet, and there are some defeats after which it is tough to make a turnaround."
When asked what prompted her to join the TMC, she said her former party was not in a position to take on the BJP in the region.
"Changing my ideology was out of the question. I am anti-BJP and will continue to oppose their divisive politics. After the assembly elections in five states, Congress lost in Assam, Puducherry, Kerala....but Mamata didi managed to sail through and stop the BJP juggernaut. She is a national leader after her spectacular victory," she said, explaining the reason for her quitting the Congress.
She said the Congress, which ruled Assam for decades, is "confused".
"There is an opposition vacuum in Assam and the TMC will fill this gap. they are serious about it," she said.
Dev said the TMC, Mamata Banerjee and party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee are serious about fighting the BJP in Assam and other states of the Northeast but currently the main focus is on the 2023 Tripura assembly polls.
When asked whether her switchover to the TMC would impact the Congress-TMC unity at the national level, Dev replied in the negative.
"The TMC has made it clear that it is not poaching leaders from other parties, but if anyone is inspired by Mamata Banerjee, then they are welcome. Congress too inducts leaders from other parties such as BJP, Shiv Sena, TRS. They also induct people from diametrically opposite parties," she said.
Dev, however, refrained from commenting on the accusations of a "drift in the Congress" and said the party has an able leadership. She said it was too early to comment on who will be the leader of the opposition alliance if it takes shape ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
"It is a pertinent question and it has to be answered. But the Lok Sabha polls are still three years away. It's still too early. First, we have to tell the nation that we can work together and then prove that we are a formidable force. We have to walk the talk on issues against the government and take it to task. Then at an appropriate time we can answer this question," she said.
Speaking on the issue of the CAA and NRC in Assam as her new party TMC has opposed both, Dev said CAA is a half-baked solution by the BJP but maintained that the issue of the stateless people under the NRC in Assam has to be addressed.
"I am neither in favour nor in opposition to CAA. The CAA evoked emotions in Assam which is what BJP wanted. Now that the election is over, they have gone silent. It is a half-baked solution. What I said was that those who were left out of the National Register of Citizens in Assam cannot remain stateless. There has to be a solution within the constitutional framework. But BJP twisted and misinterpreted my statement," she said.b