RAIDIGHI/KULPI/TARAKESWAR: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday accused the BJP of engineering communal strife in the state to win the assembly elections.
The TMC chief, in an apparent jibe at Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM and Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF, also called upon Muslims to steer clear of the “trap laid by a BJP-aided party from Hyderabad and its Bengal ally that are out to polarise votes”.
Banerjee, while addressing a rally in Raidighi in South-24 Parganas district, said, “The Hyderabad man and his associate in Furfura Sharif (Siddiqui) here want to divide minority votes at the behest of the BJP, and repeat what had happened during Bihar polls.”
Both Owaisi and Siddiqui have time and again rejected the TMC’s assertion.
The ISF is fighting the elections in alliance with the CPI(M) and the Congress.
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The TMC supremo also urged Hindus to be on the guard against the BJP’s attempts to “instigate communal clashes” and urged them to chase away outsiders sent to foment trouble in their respective localities.
Affirming her Hindu identity, in an apparent attempt to counter the minority appeasement charge against her, Banerjee said, “I am a devout Hindu who recites Chandi mantra every day before leaving home. That said, I also believe in our tradition of giving respect to every religion.”
“I am a daughter of a Hindu household. I know all the mantras that are recited to worship deities such as Maa Chandi and Maa Jagaddhatri. How many of them (BJP leaders) can do that? My Hinduism beliefs are not borrowed from the BJP,” she said.
Taking a dig at saffron party leaders who visited homes of Dalit voters and had luncheons with them, she said, “I am a Brahmin. But my all-time associate is a Scheduled Caste woman who takes care of all my needs. She also cooks food for me.”
“I need no advertisement, unlike those who bring five-star hotel food to eat at the courtyard of a Dalit home. In reality, they are the ones who are by nature anti-Dalit, anti-backward caste and anti-minority,” she contended.
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The TMC chief further said that the BJP, if voted to power, will forcing “many citizens to leave” their place of stay by implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“They will divide West Bengal and its people. Remember how they deleted the names of 14 lakh Bengalis and two lakh Biharis in the updated NRC in Assam,” she said.
Banerjee alleged that central forces are visiting homes 48 hours before polling and “terrorising them, asking them to vote for the BJP”.
“Don’t be intimidated. Mothers and sisters should challenge them. We have no problems if the forces act impartially to ensure fair elections but if they act on behalf of a particular political party, we will protest,” she said.
The chief minister, who has crossed swords with her former lieutenant and BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, alleged that there were attempts by “outsiders” to rig the elections in the constituency.
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“Attempts were made to rig the elections in Nandigram. One local hoodlum was accompanied by outsider goons in Nandigram as they went around threatening people. This is their pattern. However, nothing can stop me from winning handsomely.
“They had brought goondas from Bihar and planned to surround me with petrol bombs but the people of Nandigram foiled that bid as they gathered in my defence in time,” she alleged.
At Kulpi, during the second meeting of day, the CM said, “The BJP knows nothing about Bengal which worships Durga, Kali, Shiva, Krishna, Sitala with devotion, while also observing Eid with equal fervour.”
Asserting that it was a matter of shame that “people like Amit Shah are addressing meetings on the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Swami Vivekanada and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar”, she said, “Whosoever attends public meetings called by these rioters, killers of humanity should be ashamed of themselves.
“Do you (people) have to attend a BJP meeting if you are offered Rs 500?” She claimed to have received a video clip where a man is seen saying that he voted for the BJP after being given puffed rice, sweets and Rs 500 in cash.
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“On one hand, the BJP has hiked LPG prices, and on the other they are distributing ill-gotten money from PM Cares Fund, Notebandi,” Banerjee said.
Slamming the BJP government at the Centre for hiking small savings interest rate one day only to “withdraw it the next morning”, she said the decision was taken with an eye on elections in five states.
Noting that she has come to know that the wife of a severely thrashed TMC worker in Nandigram is worried as “BJP goons have threatened to kidnap their daughter”, Banerjee said, “A Muslim family in her neighbourhood has given them shelter, and that had once again brought to the fore the underlying harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal.
“The BJP does not represent real Hindus, they are a party of rioters, murderers,” she said.
Criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his recent visit to Bangladesh during the elections, she said “it was his attempt to beg for votes”.
She said that Modi’s designs will not succeed “as the TMC is deeply ensconced in the hearts of the refugees from Bangladesh, as they have been given land rights”.
“Please ensure Bengal is not ruled by goondas from outside. If you have grievances against anyone, please keep in mind this is not the time to vent it out by voting for them. This is the time to save Bengal, which can be made possible if the TMC is re-elected,” she said.
Pointing out that her government stood by its people when Cyclone Amphan struck, facilitating rescue and relief operations on a large scale, Banerjee said, “We had built 30 lakh houses, evacuated people before the disaster struck. We provided relief to the affected”.
“If some people haven’t received relief, they are exceptions and the matter will be addressed by us. What did the BJP do? They didn’t provide any real help,” she said.
“Without offering help, you are now making tall claims. We are thieves and you sadhus?” she said referring to BJP’s graft charges.
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At Tarakeswar in Hooghly district, Banerjee, while talking about the Partition of Bengal in 1905, and how Hindus and Muslims had together fought against the division, she said, the BJP is also trying to create division and rift” among the people of the state.
Taking a dig at TMC turncoats, the CM, during her rally in Raidighi, said sitting MLA from the seat and actor Debasree Roy joined the BJP, as she was denied a party ticket.
“We don’t keep opportunists in our party,” she said.
Listing her government’s achievements, she said, “Work for infrastructural development in Sunderbans has been undertaken by the TMC dispensation. The state government has taken an initiative to provide egg meal at Rs 5. A steel bridge will soon come up in Kulpi, connecting Gangasagar with the mainland.”