Training guns on Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on Wednesday raked up the contentious issue of migration to West Bengal from neighbouring Bangladesh, asserting "infiltrators" would have to leave if he was voted to power.
Addressing his fifth rally in Bengal this election season, Modi asked why chief minister Banerjee had changed her stand on the "infiltration" issue.
A fringe player in the state, the BJP has campaigned aggressively in Bengal, which has 42 Lok Sabha seats, and hopes to reap some sort of election gains, riding on a projected "Modi wave". In the 2009 polls, the party had bagged just 6% votes and one seat — that too with the help of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling.
Stepping up his attack on the Bengal chief minister, Modi said, "In August 2005, Mamata Banerjee had thrown a bunch of papers at the Lok Sabha speaker to protest against the infiltration from Bangladesh. How could she change so drastically?"
He was addressing a rally in Krishnanagar, a town around 130 km north of state capital Kolkata.
Modi's stand on migration from the neighbor country has triggered a political storm of late. After more than 30 immigrants from Bangladesh were killed in the Assam violence recently, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah accused Modi of inciting tension.
The exodus — the history of which dates back to the 1940s — is a sensitive issue in the eastern states of Bengal and Assam. The Trinamool Congress chief and the state Congress president recently warned the BJP with consequences if it dared to touch the settlers.
Nevertheless, Modi reiterated in Krishnanagar, "Those who have infiltrated into Bengal… who were allowed to arrive to act as vote banks will have to go back. Even the Supreme Court has said there has been large-scale infiltration along the borders. I have no hesitation to say this is an aggression against India."
Later in the day, addressing a rally in Barasat on the outskirts of Kolkata, Modi said, "Let me be specific. Refugees and infiltrators are not the same. For refugees there is room in all corners of India. They have come to find a place in the lap of Bharat maa (Mother India). But infiltrators have come to control India.
The Gujarat chief minister also took a dig at Banerjee over crimes against women in Bengal.
"Gujarat is a state of sisters (behens) and Bengal is a state of mothers (maa). But why should Bengal be among the state where atrocities are high against mothers and sisters?"
The ruling Trinamool has been battling a series of sex crimes against women over the past two years. Bengal topped states in crimes against women in 2011 and 2012, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Turning the heat on Banerjee, Modi added, "We were proud of Didi since she took on the Left parties singlehandedly in the state. But in the past two years, the woman who used to fight so valiantly has started hankering after power."
During his previous visit to the state, Modi had attacked the chief minister over the multi-crore Saradha scam in the state, triggering a bitter war of words. The Trinamool, a former ally of the BJP, had returned fire by seeking a public apology.