Mamata Banerjee sounds a feeble battle cry to defeat BJP in 2021

Published : July 22, 2020 00:00 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressing the virtual Martyr's Day rally, in Kolkata on July 21. Photo: PTI

In a speech that lacked punch, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 21 exhorted her supporters to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Assembly election, which is less than 10 months away. She was addressing a virtual ‘Sahid Dibash’ (Martyr’s Day) rally of the Trinamool Congress.

The annual rally, in memory of 13 Youth Congress workers killed in police firing on July 21, 1993, is usually held in central Kolkata. This year, for the first time, it was conducted virtually on account of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Addressing her supporters from near her residence in Kalighat in south Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee said that the next Martyr’s Day rally in 2021 would be a historic one as it would be held after her party’s return to power after defeating the BJP. “If you could fight and defeat the CPI(M) which ruled the State for 34 years, then you can easily defeat the BJP, which is just an insignificant party that steals money and makes itself rich.”

She accused the BJP of “buying votes”, using money power to destabilise State governments and trying to establish a single-party rule in the country.

“Outsiders will not run West Bengal. Gujarat will not run West Bengal. People from Bengal will run West Bengal. There is no reason to think that Trinamool is so weak,” she said.

Political observers said that her speech lacked the usual passion and betrayed a lack of confidence and energy.

She mostly attacked the BJP and practically ignored all other political opponents in the State, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress.

At one point, she even asked those who had defected from the Trinamool to the BJP to return and also invited members of other opposition parties to join her party.

A sizeable portion of her 70-minute speech was spent on defending all the allegations against her party, particularly those of corruption.

Noted political observer and psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty told Frontline: “It may have been a blunder on her part to focus only on the BJP in her speech; it made her fear of the BJP’s rise very evident. Further, many of her allegations against the BJP have been directed against her, and therefore it is losing its sting among the people of the State.”

Mamata Banerjee’s apparent jitteriness was not missed by her political opponents either. Sujan Chakraborty, leader of the CPI(M) Legislature Party, said: “Her failure and her state of hopelessness is very evident in her speech… She has lost. People of the State consider the Trinamool to be a party of frauds and looters; that realisation is evident in her body language.”

Dilip Ghosh, State BJP president and Lok Sabha member, said: “The fact that she is inviting those who have left her party to return shows how frustrated and alone she is. People are leaving her party and that is why she has to make such statements.”

During the rally, Mamata Banerjee paid homage to those who had lost their lives to political violence across the country. She also highlighted the achievements of her own government in the last nine years. “If we return to power, then people will get free ration, free health service, free education all through their lives,” she promised.

Mamata Banerjee also raised the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Citizen (Amendment) Act and the National Population Register (NPR).

At the height of the anti-NRC and anti-CAA movement in the country in 2019, her voice was the most strident and consistent. Ahead of the elections, she has decided to revive the issue.

Training her guns on the BJP, she said: “We have not forgotten the fight over NRC, and how you murdered people in Delhi on that day… You do not even allow people to protest. Do not think just because of COVID-19 we will forget NRC or the NPR. We are all citizens here...”

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