Actor-turned-politician Nafisa Ali, along with Tennis player Leander Paes and entrepreneur Mrinalini Deshprabhu, joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the presence of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday.
In an exclusive interview with Outlook, Nafisa Ali reveals the reason behind her decision to join the TMC.
“Mamata Banerjee is invincible in her strength as a fighter. After Bengal elections when the entire Modi govt, including the PM himself, had ridiculed her, which was so troubling to the sentiment of culture of Bengal, believing that BJP will come to power, Mamata fought all of that with dignity, and it was her spirit that brought her back in Bengal,” Ali told Outlook.
“She listens, she reasons and she is humble. She doesn’t have arrogance. She is there for the people and is always ready to be questioned. That’s what I respect and love about her. I feel by joining TMC I can strengthen the party’s national agenda,” she adds.
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In 2004, Ali had contested against Mamata Banerjee for the Calcutta South Lok Sabha constituency on a Congress ticket.
“In 2004, when Mamata was with the BJP, I made it my mission to contest against her, because I don’t think she was with the right party, then. After TMC had a disastrous result, she broke away with them, she realised that she has true spirit of a Congress woman. That’s when she became the true spirited tigress of Bengal that she is now! I remember going back to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi after those elections, and giving a presentation then, saying we have to support Mamata, because communism was the biggest stumbling block in the Bengal politics then,” she said.
“I will do anything that Mrs. Gandhi asks for, but I feel that Mamata Banerjee is the real face of Congress right now, nationally. There have been plenty of Congress eras like the Nehruvian Congress or the Indira Gandhi Congress or the Narsimha Rao Congress and now, it is Mamata Banerjee’s face. I feel the INC has somewhere lost its 'For-The-People' principle that it was known for, and is now only being carried forward in its truest sense by TMC and Mamata ,” Ali added.
Ali was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, which meant that her physical well-being took priority for her. But now it is “in remission” and Ali points out that it is time for her to present herself to the “larger cause” of serving the country.
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“I have always been like that, when I was the National Champion (in swimming) in the seventies. Then, when I won the first Miss World title. It was all like a stepping stone for me to be able to come on the larger platform, to be able to serve this country and its people. With my cancer, three years back, I had to stay away from all this, but now that it is in remission, I think that God has given me a second chance, to be back on the path I was once on, to achieve even bigger goals,” she said.
For now, Ali’s focus will be on raising issues, which she feels will better the lives of the locals living in Goa.
“We will strengthen the hand of Goa, according to what the Goans need. Issues like the law-and-order situation, crime and the drug menace will be addressed seriously. Then there’s an entire fiasco on how garbage is not being collected, when it can possibly earn revenue, if you know how to get a way round that. Then we need to focus on rain-water harvesting. Goa has so much water. But we still need fresh water to drink. We need better roads. There are only a few areas where roads are very good, otherwise they all just get washed away during the rainy season. Even the social security scheme has been stopped. Subsidies have also gone haywire. Housewives have no money. Youth has no jobs. Fisherman also need support. There’s lots to be done,” she adds.
Ali believes it is her duty to help, because right now, Ali thinks that “India needs much stronger secular government.”
“BJP unfortunately used their muscle power to manipulate all information that is fed to people- whether it is China issue, or the Afghanistan issue, or any other issue. Take the recent example where, I don’t know how many thousands of crores worth cocaine, or whatever drugs, were caught. But, they targeted a young boy and made such a big drama. The boy didn’t have drugs on him and he wasn’t even tested. He wasn’t really caught. Yet, they still locked him up in a jail for almost a month,” she says, referring to the arrest of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan, by the Narcotics Control Bureau on October 3, after the agency raided a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai and seized drugs. After 25 days, Aryan Khan was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on Thursday.
“Is this the India that we deserve? [So many] people are [still] languishing in jails. This is not the India, this is not the democracy we have fought for. We have to look at new India with new vision and new thought process,” she signs off.