HOWRAH: Lashing out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the TMC supremo’s appeal to Muslims to vote en bloc for her party reflects fears that minority votes are slipping out of her hands.
Modi, who addressed two public meetings during the day, also pointed out that a similar appeal to Hindus by his party would have drawn the wrath of the media and the Election Commission.
Asserting that Banerjee has problems with people sporting a ‘Tilak’ and wearing saffron, Modi said her angry reactions indicate that she has already lost the elections.
Accusing the Trinamool Congress dispensation of indulging in rampant corruption, he said, “Didi has started a new tax in Bengal – Bhaipo (nephew) Service Tax!”.
“Didi recently asked all Muslims to vote en bloc for her. It shows that the Muslim vote bank is slipping out of her hands. Had we said the same thing that all Hindus should unite, everybody would have criticised us. The EC would have sent us notices. We would have been censured,” Modi said.
The BJP had on Monday approached the Election Commission, seeking action against Banerjee, alleging that she violated the Representation of the People’s Act by asking Muslims to come together and vote for her party in the assembly polls.
Taking a dig at Banerjee for rhetorically questioning whether BJP leaders predicting their victory were Gods or superhumans, Modi said no one needs to be a superhuman to predict his party’s victory as the wave blowing in favour of the saffron camp spoke for itself.
“There is no need to trouble God to find out who is winning Janata Janardhana (public), in the form of God, has given their response. Didi’s exit is imminent. That is clear after the first two phases of polling,” the prime minister said at a rally in Cooch Behar.
Modi also claimed that Banerjee has hurt Bengalis’ self-esteem by stating that people are lured to his rallies with money.
“For 10 years, women, Dalits, backward classes, farmers and tea workers were subjected to injustices, but Didi, you chose to be a mute spectator. Didi has started a new tax in Bengal – Bhaipo (nephew) Service Tax! Today, for this reason, the same words are coming from every corner of Bengal – Chalo Paltai, Chalo Paltai (let us bring the change),” he said.
Reacting to the ‘Bhaipo Service Tax’ jibe, senior TMC minister Firhad Hakim said that such comments are reflections of his frustration sensing defeat.
“The BJP has made it a habit of making personal attacks and taking the political discourse to a new low. The repeated attacks on our young leader are a reflection of frustration. There is no such tax in Bengal,” he said without naming anyone.
The PM further said that “Didi, sensing defeat, has turned jittery” and was criticising everybody and everything — from the EC to electronic voting machines (EVMs), the top leader said.
Referring to some TMC leaders’ claim that Banerjee might contest elections from his Lok Sabha seat, Varanasi, in 2024, Modi mocked the TMC boss, saying that “this proves that Didi has accepted her defeat in Bengal and is looking for another seat”.
He also asserted that Banerjee’s claims that social schemes started by her will be stopped if the BJP comes to power were “false and baseless”, and gave assurances that none of them will be discontinued.
“If anything gets stopped, that will be ‘tolabaji’ (extortion) and cut-money (bribes),” he said.
At his second rally in Howrah, the PM said Banerjee was “heaping abuse” on him as she was “frustrated” over her party’s impending defeat in the state elections.
He noted that people in Bengal were speculating that the TMC will disintegrate after its defeat on May 2, the day scheduled for counting of votes.
Maintaining that the TMC dispensation has institutionalised “ease of crime and ease of loot”, the prime minister said that a BJP government, instead, will provide people “ease of living and business”.
Hitting out at the CM for her jibe over his Bengali pronunciation, the PM said that he makes it a point to wish all MPs and chief ministers on their birthdays by writing to them in their mother tongue.
“I have started this tradition, but that does not mean I have great knowledge of all languages. I have respect for all the languages. I know that I make mistakes while speaking Bengali, but despite such errors, I respect Bangla (language),” he said, stressing that it “felt good” when he wrote to Banerjee in Bengali and she replied in Gujarati.
In yet another caustic remark, Modi, recalling an instance where a bull had come in the way of the TMC chief’s roadshow, said, “Not just Bengal or Nandigram (where Banerjee is her party’s candidate), but ‘Nandi’ (the sacred companion of Lord Shiva) has also expressed its anger against her.”
Lamenting that MSME industries, which once flourished in Bengal, are in shambles under the TMC dispensation, he said that despite the rising demands for country-made products, the enterprises had to shut shop owing to the misrule of successive governments.
“In order to free the middle-class people from the clutches of construction mafia, the Centre has brought the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA), but Didi did not enforce it in West Bengal as she under pressure from real-estate mafia,” the prime minister said.
Assuring people that work to bring relief to the poor, middle-class, farmers and workers will be taken up at the very first cabinet meeting, if the saffron party is voted to power, he insisted that the double-engine government of the BJP would mean “double work with double speed”.