Mamata rides pillion on an e-scooter to work to protest against rising fuel prices; BJP calls it drama

Published : February 25, 2021 21:25 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is the pillion passenger on this e-scooter, riding to the State Secretariat, to protest against the increasing fuel prices. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Mamata returning home from work riding an e-scooter to make a statement about Central government increasing fuel and LPG prices. Photo: ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee staged a unique protest against the sky-rocketing of petrol and diesel prices on February 25 by going to the State secretariat, Nabanna, on an electric scooter and later returning home on it. She also announced a more widespread protest in the coming days. As a pillion passenger on the scooter that senior Cabinet Minister Firhad Hakim was riding, Mamata caused quite a sensation among the commuters of Kolkata as she sped past smiling and waving, with police in plainclothes on powerful bikes forming a protective moving cordon. The Chief Minister wore a placard around her neck which said: “What is in your mouth? Petrol Price Hike. Diesel Price Hike. Cooking Gas Price Hike.”

Upon reaching Nabanna, Mamata addressed the media. She said: “We are registering our protest at the way in which prices of petrol, diesel and gas have increased. A gas cylinder is now Rs.800, kerosene is not available, and in Bengal around one crore people cook using kerosene…. Note the difference of the costs of petrol, diesel and gas when Narendra Modi first came to power. You will see a huge deception in what is happening – the way in which common people are getting increasingly helpless.”

She pointed out that most of the people of the country worked in the unorganised sector and they needed at least two gas cylinders every month. If that alone costs them Rs.1,650, then how can they afford anything else…. We will start our protest in a big way all across Bengal and we request people of the country to also take to the streets in protest,” she said.

While enumerating the failures of the BJP-led government at the Centre — from demonetisation to its handling of the COVID — Mamata once again raised her allegation that the Prime Minister with his privatisation drive, was “selling off” the whole country. “From BSNL to Coal India, to the Railways, to Banks, to LIC – the whole country is being sold off by the Modi government and Amit babu (Home Minister Amit Shah). It [the BJP at the Centre] is an anti-people, anti-women, anti-farmers, anti-young generation government. It is a government that has caused great harm to the country, and we do not want such a government to continue,” she said.

On the way back from Nabanna, at one point Mamata decided to try her hand at driving the electric scooter. Burly plainclothes police personnel held on to the scooter as they ran alongside her. People had lined up on the sidewalk to catch a glimpse of this unique protest and they were not disappointed. After reaching her home at Harish Chatterjee street in South Kolkata, Mamata said, “This was the first time I ever rode an e-scooter, and now I can go off anywhere I want to.”

With the Assembly election around the corner, the BJP is viewing the protest as a political gimmick that “will not have any impact in the coming polls”. BJP State president and Lok Sabha MP Dilip Ghosh, taking a swipe at the manner in which Mamata was riding the scooter with police help, said, “Just as she is running the government with the assistance of Prashant Kishor [election strategist working with the Trinamool], similarly she is riding a scooter – she can do neither properly. The issue of the fluctuating prices of petrol and diesel is not a new one…. Doing such drama is the only way she is able to keep herself in the news.”

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