The electoral battle in West Bengal took a personal turn on Sunday with BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi accusing West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee of helping people associated with the Saradha chit-fund scam and questioning the cost at which her paintings were sold.
“Earlier, your paintings used to sell for eight, ten lakh rupees. How, then, did your painting sell for Rs. 1.8 crores? Who bought it? I respect you personally but this has tarnished your image,” said Modi at a public rally in Sreerampur.
A combination photo shows West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. (HT photo/files)
Read: Saradha scam comes back to haunt Mamata in stronghold
Read:‘Saradha used hawala route to siphon crores’
During his longest speech in the state this poll season, Modi promised strong action against the Saradha culprits, alleging that Banerjee was more worried about her ‘kursi’ (chair) than development.
“You perceive people from other state as aliens but your face brightens up when it comes to Bangladeshis (infiltrators). After May 16, these Bangladeshis should pack their belongings and be ready. I will not allow you to destroy or divide India for the sake of your chair,” said Modi.
The Trinamool Congress was quick to hit back. Calling Modi “The butcher of Gujarat”, party spokesperson Derek O’Brien asked how a man who couldn’t take care of his own wife would take care of the nation.
“Having no answers to Bengal’s development model, the butcher of Gujarat says Didi pocketed Rs. 1.8 crore by selling one painting of hers. He should prove it or face defamation,” Brien said.
Claiming that the money from the sale of paintings was used for ‘good’ causes and election expenditure, Brien said, “Fight politically, not personally. Otherwise we too can ask personal questions.”
Earlier in the day, Modi accused Banerjee of using the police to stymie opponents. “You (Banerjee) were a dedicated leader but now have gone on a wrong way. You have done more damage to Bengal in 35 months than the Left could in 35 years,” Modi said.
Read: BJP sniffs major poll gains in West Bengal
Read: Modi assails Didi over failed ‘poriborton’
Addressing his third rally in the state, Modi accused Chidambaram and Banerjee of shielding the Saradha scam offenders. “You have brought in Mamataji here and you will have to tolerate this. But send Lotus (BJP candidates) to Delhi and we will try and solve your problems,” Modi told the crowd.
The attack underlined a shift in Modi’s electoral strategy in West Bengal where he has attacked the ruling Trinamool Congress in his last two rallies after giving a veiled invitation for an alliance in his first speech.