Battle for Bengal: At mega Kolkata rally, PM Modi sharpens attack on Mamata
- "You have played with the lives of people. Khela sesh (the game has ended)," said Modi who used Bengali words several times while speaking in Hindi.
Promising a 25-year development plan for West Bengal, if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the imminent assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sharpened attack on chief minister Mamata Banerjee at his first rally in Kolkata this year. The PM accused the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief of getting blinded by the affection for her nephew Abhishek Banerjee and looting common people to an extent that her regime might win had there been an Olympics on corruption.
Taking on the TMC’s popular election slogan, ‘khela hobe’ (let’s play) Modi, during his 72-minute speech, said, “How long will the extortion and torture continue? People want an answer and they (TMC) are scared. That’s why they are talking about playing a game. They have played enough. There is no game left. Even ration sent by the Centre was stolen. I want to appeal to all people. Do not be afraid. Vote for the BJP without fear. End the anarchy. Victory for Bengal means victory for India.”
"You have played with the lives of people. Khela sesh (the game has ended)," said Modi who used Bengali words several times while speaking in Hindi.
Brigade Parade Grounds, the venue of Modi’s rally in the Maidan area, witnessed an impressive turnout, thanks to a few lakh people who came from the districts in trains and buses with innovative and colourful props. Modi’s plane arrived at Kolkata around 1.30 pm and he flew to the Maidans in a chopper.
The prime minister's speech focused on the BJP’s plans for Bengal’s development, corruption during the TMC regime, the plight of women in the state during the last 10 years and, not surprisingly, the Left-Congress coalition that has triggered the possibility of a three-way split in votes in some districts. Modi did not mention cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front which is part of the third coalition.
While addressing a rally in north Bengal’s Siliguri town, about 570 kilometres away, Mamata Banerjee unleashed a more scathing counterattack around the same time. “I have never seen a prime minister lying so much. The only syndicate India has is the one run by Modi and Amit Shah. The prime minister talks of cut-money (illegal commission). A poor man may take ₹5 or ₹10 as cut-money. But what about selling national assets?” said Banerjee.
The TMC rally and roadshow was held in protest against the rise in the price of LPG. “I am giving free ration to all people but they have to buy LPG cylinders for ₹900 to cook their food. You have to provide LPG for free. Tell them when it will be provided free,” said Banerjee. Turning at the crowd she said, “Do not vote for the BJP till LPG comes free.”
Banerjee accused Modi of unethically helping big industrialists, who she referred to as the prime minister’s friends.
Modi shot back in Kolkata.
“The opposition says that I work for my friends. We all make friends in places where we grow up. I can feel the difficulties faced by my friends. I will always do so. I am working for my friends in Bengal. I have given my friends in Bengal 70 lakh homes and toilets. People working in the tea gardens are my special friends and for them, the Union budget has allotted ₹1,000 crore,” said Modi.
Reciting a couple of lines from a Sanskrit scripture, Modi said, “When someone gets angry because of excessive affection, the person makes more mistakes and eventually loses everything.” He did not name Abhishek Banerjee whose wife and sister-in-law were recently questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the coal smuggling case.
“Even I am not spared. Sometimes I am called Ravana, sometimes a demon and sometimes a ruffian. Why do you get so angry Didi?” Modi said referring to some of the comments Banerjee made in recent rallies.
“The lotus is blooming because you (Banerjee) deprived the poor, kept youths unemployed. I know Didi for years. This is not the Didi who fought for Bengal. She is now being controlled by others. The remote control is in the hands of someone else,” said Modi.
“The whole of Bengal is now saying aar noi anyay (no more injustice, the BJP’s slogan). The entire nation needs to hear this. This is the voice of the Bengalis," he said.
"The sons and daughters of Bengal are asking you questions after 10 years. They choose you to be their elder sister but you limited yourself to being the aunt of just one nephew. What about the millions of nephews and nieces? You could not escape from the same family politics that you spoke against,” said Modi.
Indirectly referring to the TMC’s official poll slogan, ‘Bengal wants to its own daughter,’ Modi talked of last week’s incident when the chief minister somehow managed to save herself from a fall from an electric scooter that she rode in protest against rising fuel prices.
He said, “You are not the daughter of Bengal only. You are the nation’s daughter. When you rode the scooty, everybody prayed that you do not fall. Thank God you did not because if you did, the state where the scooty was made would have become your enemy. However, instead of going to Bhawanipore, your scooty went to Nandigram. I do not want to see anyone getting hurt but what can I do if the scooty has decided to fall in Nandigram?"
Naming some prominent Bengali women who took part in the freedom struggle, Modi said, “I am fortunate that in the last six years our daughters and sisters have been the beneficiaries of our welfare schemes. Home and toilets have been built for them. The Centre’s Jan Dhan Yojana benefits women too. They were given LPG during the pandemic.”
“Is it not our job to think about the poor? It is a pity that the TMC government is lying to the poor. The state government could not spend a lion’s share of central funds. Is the TMC government not guilty? It has locked up central funds. Didi is determined. She will not work and won’t let others work as well,” he said.
Pointing at the crowd at the Brigade Parade Grounds, the venue of many historic rallies since the 1960s, Modi said, “This ground has seen many patriots. And, this ground has also seen those who blocked the state’s development, those who conspired to stop progress with strikes. People of Bengal have withstood these for generations. It is because of their willpower that people never gave up the hope to see change.”
He talked of bringing in ‘asol poribarton’ (real change) and building ‘sonar Bangla’ or golden Bengal.
“You (the people) trusted Mamata Banerjee. But she and her cadres destroyed your dreams. They broke your trust. They insulted the people of Bengal. They tortured our sisters and daughters but could never destroy their hopes. This crowd is the living proof of that hope. Bengal wants sonar Bangla, they want peace, progress and prosperity,” said Modi.
“In this election, there is TMC on one side, there are the Left and Congress on another side while there are the determined people of Bengal on the third side. The fact that a few million have turned up today proves that all people want is Bengal to follow the path of progress. I have come to assure you that there will be change. There will be investment, industrialization and 21st-century technology. The state’s culture and heritage will be protected. We will work 24x7 for the development of Bengal. We will live every second for you and your dreams. We will serve you. We will win your hearts with our service. The development will be for all,” said Modi.
“We will build a Bengal where infiltrators will not find any place. People know what Bengal has lost since Independence. I have come with the determination to announce that whatever has been robbed from here will be returned. The next 25 years are crucial for Bengal. The coming polls will launch the first phase. The next five years is important. In 2047, when India will celebrate its 100th year of Independence, Bengal will once again lead other states as it did in the past,” said Modi.
“Kolkata is the city of joy. It has the legacy and the possibility of a great future. There is no way it cannot be made the city of the future. A few days ago, a list of top cities was published. People want to see Kolkata in that position. Once you have the double engine government (the BJP at both the state and the Centre) all obstacles will disappear. Because of corruption, a lot of work has been stalled. The smart city project will get a new boost. All flyovers will be set up on time. Even slum dwellers will get new homes. Hawkers will get benefits from Central schemes. Other cities of Bengal will also contribute to the dream of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India)," said Modi.
“The national education policy will be enforced in Bengal. Engineering and medicine will be taught in Bengali as well. The daughter of a poor man can become a doctor or engineer even if she does not know English,” said Modi.
Taking on other opposition parties, Modi said, “Was it an Indian who founded the Congress party? The Left, on the other hand, was inspired by Karl Marx and Lenin. The BJP is the only party that is inspired by Indians and Bengal. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee inspired it. BJP has Bengal in its DNA. BJP can pay back this debt.”
“The Congress came to power because of Independence. It worked for a few years but started the politics of vote bank in Bengal. The Marxists took this forward ahead. They said they would crush the black arms of the Congress. That is how they came to power and stayed for 30 years. I want to ask how those black arms of the Congress suddenly turned white,” said Modi, referring to the Congress-Left alliance.