Modi targets Mamata at rally in Kolkata, promises 'real change'; Mamata responds with protest in Siliguri against fuel price rise

Published : March 07, 2021 22:00 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcoming veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty into the BJP at the Brigade Parade Ground rally in Kolkata on March 7. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched almost simultaneous attacks on each other on March 7 from different venues in West Bengal. While Modi trained his guns on Mamata at a massive rally on the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, Mamata tore into the Prime Minister from a protest rally at Siliguri in north Bengal. Asserting that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will bring in “ashol paribartan” (real change) when it defeats the ruling Trinamool in the Assembly election, Modi said, “The people of Bengal want to ask you [Mamata] one question: They chose you to be their Didi [elder sister], why did you limit yourself to being the aunt to just one nephew?” The Prime Minister’s reference was to Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is perceived to be heir apparent to the Trinamool leadership. Modi accused Mamata of indulging in the very dynastic politics that prompted her to break away from the Congress. Modi also accused the government of indulging in so much corruption that a “Corruption Olympics” can be held in the State.

Mamata, who had led a massive march of women in Siliguri, protesting against the skyrocketing prices of cooking gas, petrol and diesel, struck back, saying, “He [Modi] only comes to Bengal to call us tolabaz [extortionists]. You are the biggest tolabaz. A poor man will do tolabazi of at least Rs.500, but you and your Adani friend do it in lakhs. How much was the tolabazi amount by selling SAIL and the railways? Where is the Ujwala in the Ujwala Scheme? There are charges of corruption against the scheme in the CAG reports. There is no syndicate except one big syndicate in India: Modi and Shah.”

The West Bengal election is turning out to be a fight between the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister. In his speech Modi made it clear that this election was a personal fight for him and that he was the face of the BJP against Mamata Banerjee. “I have come to convince you that for the sake of the youth here, for the sake of the farmers, for the development of our sisters and daughters, I will toil 24 hours a day. Every second of my life I will live for you, I will live to fulfill your dreams. I will serve you…. I will win over your hearts not just for the elections but all the time with my work,” he said.

Referring to Mamata’s personal attacks on him in her election speeches, the Prime Minister said, “When a person gets angry due to fear or failure… it leads to confusion and in that confusion that person makes mistakes, and loses everything. In such anger, I have been labelled so many things – sometimes Ravana, sometimes danav (demon), sometimes daitya (ogre), sometimes goonda. Why so much anger, Didi?” He said, if the Lotus is blooming in Bengal today, it is because of all the “muck that the Trinamool government has spread”.

He indicated that Mamata will lose in Nandigram – from where she said she would contest this year. On March 6, the BJP announced that its candidate in Nandigram would be the former Trinamool heavyweight Minister from the region Suvendu Adhikari, who defected to the saffron party in December 2020. The Nandigram seat will be the centre of attraction in the election. The Left-Congress alliance is yet to announce its candidate for the seat. The Prime Minister also took a swipe at the Left-Congress alliance by referring to the history of animosity between the two parties. “The Left used to chant ‘break and grind the black hand of the Congress.’ When did the Congress’ hand turn fair for the Left?” he said.

Mithun Chakraborty joins BJP

The BJP’s Brigade rally also saw matinee superstar Mithun Chakraborty joining the BJP. Mithun’s joining is seen as a shot in the arm for the party ahead of the election, as the Bollywood icon has a cult following in Bengal. Mithun, who was once a Rajya Sabha member of the Trinamool, said, “I had a dream when I was 18 that I would do something for the poor, give them their rights. Today I am seeing that dream being fulfilled. It was bound to happen.” Playing to the gallery, he said, “I know you are waiting to hear that dialogue [referring to the lines from his hit Bengali film MLA Phata Keshto] — ‘Marbo ekhane, laash porbe shoshane’ (I’ll strike you here and your corspse will land straight in the crematorium)…. But I will give you a new dialogue today before I begin my campaign: “Ami joldhorao noi, bele borao noi... ami ekta cobra, ek chobolei chobi (I am not any harmless snake, I am a cobra that can kill with a single bite).” The crowd roared in delight.

Mamata’s protest rally in Siliguri

While the BJP rally at the Brigade Parade ground was going on, Mamata was leading a huge rally of women in protest against the rising prices of cooking gas. More than 50,000 women took part in the rally with placards of gas cylinders around their necks. Addressing the gathering at the end of the march, Mamata said, “Modi ji does not come to Bengal for good but to spread fake news and defame the State. Today, Modi ji has said a lot of things but didn’t address the real issue of the people. He should have first answered why he has increased the price of LPG and petroleum products.” She predicted that the BJP will lose in all the five States that will be going to the polls. Dismissing the BJP’s claims of building a ‘Sonar Bangla’ (golden Bengal), Mamata said, “They will make Sonar Bangla by selling the assets of the State as they have done in Delhi. The only thing that they have left is changing the name of India to Modi.”