Former Lt. Gen. Saha, forays into politics to continue life in public service

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By Amitava Roy Kolkata, Apr 24 (PTI) Fondly called the 'People's General' for his humanitarian work in Kashmir valley, former deputy chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Subrata Saha (Retd.), who is contesting as BJPs candidate for Rashbehari assembly constituency felt his foray into politics would be a continuation of his life in public service.

Saha, a member of National Security Advisory Board, also said his desire to serve Bengal has driven his entry into politics.

'For me, this is continuation of public service, 40 years of my life I have given to serving the nation through the Army, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Srinagar-based 15 (Chinar) Corps, said.

Saha has been credited with undertaking several initiatives which earned him thanks from the Kashmiri people, including relief and rescue operations during a devastating flood in the Srinagar valley in September, 2014.

'Even if you are on the borders, actually you are doing public service,' Saha, who retired as Deputy Chief of Army Staff, told PTI.

'When I go around meeting people here, there are so many people who tell me with a lot of love and affection, that it is because of people like you that we are able to sleep securely in our homes,' he said.

The founding director general of Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, Saha said he had simply changed his platform for doing public service, from the Army to politics.

Asked why he chose BJP to enter the political arena, he said a desire to do something for Bengal was always there within him and the saffron party offered him an opportunity to fulfil that desire.

'We have seen the decline of Bengal in front of our eyes,' he said.

He claimed that other states where BJP is in power are turning around admirably, and added there were enough reasons to feel inspired by the way BJP is delivering.

Saha, who commanded a Rifle Company on the Siachen Glacier in 1986 and led disaster relief operations in Odisha after the 1999 super cyclone, said that what is common in both politics and life in the Army is that the situation remains uncertain in both.

Schooled at Sainik School, Purulia, he joined the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1975, and was finally commissioned in the Assam Regiment in 1978.

'Situation is complex whether we are in the Army where you are dealing with the circumstances, the enemy, terrain, weather, potential allies of the enemy, so is the case over here, its very complex, particularly in West Bengal, where the situation is (also) very volatile,' he said.

Alleging that the Left and the Trinamool Congress have destroyed the potential of the state over the last 44 years, Saha said 'you cannot but get moved by the complete apathy of the powers that be here and on the positive side by the phenomenal resilience of the people.

Holding that Rashbehari, which goes to the polls on Monday, is a very diverse constituency, he pointed out that at one end of the spectrum there are people living in slums and on the other there are high-rise buildings and opulence.

'Irrespective of where they are positioned, all of them suffer from a very palpable sense of insecurity,' he claimed, adding that this had become deep-rooted because of years of coercion, extortion, intimidation and suppression by hooligans and extortionists with political patronage.

'Security is a paramount concern for Rashbehari constituency,' he said.

Saha felt unemployment and lack of industries is a major bane for his constituency as it is with the entire state, and said decades of militant trade unionism since the late-1960's has led to an exodus of capital from the state.

'We have thrown out God Vishwakarma and what followed thereafter was the exit of Goddess Saraswati whom we so proudly worship,' he said.