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West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra said, “This 200 seats was said by Mr Amit Shah. Now what is his track record — In 11 states, he got his number wrong. In 13 states, the BJP underperformed since 2019.”

West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra spoke to Sunetra Choudhury about home minister Amit Shahs prediction that the BJP will win 200 seats in the assembly elections, the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief minister Mamata Banerjees message, and the TMC demand to club the remaining seats in a single phase, among other issues. Edited excerpts:
I want to start by asking you about the Election Commission (EC) meeting today to discuss the Covid situation. What happened there?
We made a very strong case that lives are involved with the Covid having become much more virulent, and also spreading much faster than the strains before. We demanded that the remaining phases be combined into one phase so that the least kind of exposure is required. Unfortunately, the Commission didnt find that feasible. So we said okay, you push it back to the last day, and do all of it on the last day so that you have enough time to prepare. Even that seemed not acceptable. Unfortunately, the BJP didnt take a position on this. What were worried about is, do they want to do politics over the health and death of people? I hope not.
Watch | Amit Vs Amit: Amit Shah was wrong in 11 states | On The Record
But its very sad that given the unusual situation, more dangerous than in the past, with all this known, why would EC not also treat it as an emergency? What worries me is this: is politics more important than the lives of people?
We know that the EC has certain biases, according to independent commissions
Would you like to elaborate on that?
The Citizens Commission on Elections led by Justice Lokur has said in a formal report that ECIs conduct of the Parliament elections of 2019 has led to grave doubts about its fairness. Thats a very serious allegation by a judge of the Supreme Court on paper.
If we can speak about your party now, the BJP says they will get 200 seats. Does that create concerns within your party?
This 200 seats was said by Mr Amit Shah. Now what is his track record — In 11 states, he got his number wrong. In 13 states, the BJP underperformed since 2019. Take for example Delhi, he said they were going to win 45 out of 70 seats. How many did they win? Eight. Take Jharkhand, Mr Amit Shah said they will win 65 seats out of 81. How many did they win? 25.
Then you go to the second strategy of Mr Shah. He said we are going to get a two-thirds majority in Haryana. Did they get it? No. Rajasthan they didnt get anything like that; they lost the elections. Madhya Pradesh same story. Later, of course, defections happened. Bihar they said two-thirds majority but didnt get it. The conclusion is whatever Mr Shah says, purely on empirical basis, you take a certain percentage of that and I am giving you that figure. It is between 35 and 40% according to his 11 predictions in the past…
But what about what Prashant Kishor said? I want you to comment on two specific things — one that the PM is as popular as Mamata Banerjee, and second, that the Hindu voters look at BJP as the `ladoo they havent tasted.
First things first. About Mr Modis popularity, the common people know that in a state election, Mr Modi and Mr Shah, and the 4-5 Cabinet ministers, six MPs stationed here — are they going to rule Bengal? The answer is no. Look at Odisha, where Parliament and local elections were held together. The people completely differentiated. They knew that these guys are birds of passage… The first answer to your question, I dont want to debate their popularity; the issue is that common people know that they are not going to sit in Bengal daily as Mamata Banerjee does. Second is about the new product. Do they not know what happened to India which is ruled by these people? Dont they know its the highest unemployment rate ever? Dont they know that the GDP growth rate fell by 23% in the first part of Covid because of an unplanned lockdown?
Why dont we hear you all talking about that more? Why is the CM reciting Chandi Path in her rallies? Are you not then playing into BJPs narrative?
…When you recite Chandi Path, then it makes headlines. Eighty per cent of her speech is on development.