During PM Modi’s Kolkata rally, CM Banerjee will decry LPG price in Siliguri
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally at the famous Brigade Parade Grounds in Maidan area is expected to draw a huge crowd.
In a bid to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first Kolkata rally prior to the eight-phase assembly polls that begins on March 27, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday will lead a roadshow in Siliguri, 570 km away in north Bengal, to decry the hike in price of LPG.
“I will lead the protest in Siliguri. We will carry cylinders. The state government gives food to the people for free. It is unacceptable that price of the fire needed to cook it costs ₹900. How can common people survive?” Banerjee said on Saturday afternoon before leaving for north Bengal where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made impressive progress in 2019 and won seven of the region’s eight Lok Sabha seats.
On Sunday, Banerjee set the tone for the day early with an attack on the issue on Twitter at 10.45 am.
"BJP is looting people by regularly hiking LPG prices. Women have been hit the hardest & I’m disgusted at Centre’s lack of intent to cut taxes & lessen their burden. In protest, today I’ll be leading an all women michil at Siliguri. REDUCE LPG PRICES NOW! #IndiaAgainstLPGLoot," she wrote.
Modi’s rally, to be held at the famous Brigade Parade Grounds in Maidan area, is expected to draw a huge crowd. Mithun Chakraborty, former Bollywood star and an icon in Bengal, may appear on the dais. No BJP leader confirmed or denied it till Saturday night. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat recently met Chakraborty at the latter’s Mumbai residence. After that meeting, the actor said he discussed only spiritual matters with the RSS chief and skipped questions on joining politics. He was a Rajya Sabha member of the TMC before resigning in 2016. He has maintained a distance from the TMC since then.
TMC leaders, who did not want to be identified, said one purpose of the chief minister’s north Bengal tour is to present before voters the effect of her welfare schemes, of which free ration is a part, as well as the fallout of the Centre’s decisions.
The other purpose, they said, is to address dissent among a section of north Bengal leaders following the release of the party’s candidate list for 291 of the state’s 294 assembly seats.
In 2019, the TMC’s tally in the Lok Sabha came down from 34 seats to 22, while the BJP increased its seats from only two to 18. In terms of the 56 assembly segments in the eight Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal, the BJP was ahead of the TMC in 34 as per the general election figures.
“The selection of candidates has triggered dissent among some TMC leaders in north Bengal. Siliguri is no exception since Om Prakash Mishra, a former Congress leader and resident of Kolkata, has been fielded from the constituency. The party hopes that the dissidents will fall in line once they see Mishra accompanying the TMC chief,” a senior TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
Banerjee has other problems to take care of as well. She has left Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong, the three assembly segments in the north Bengal hills, for the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM). Though both factions of the GJM, led by Bimal Gurung and Binoy Tamang respectively, support Banerjee, the hill leaders want to contest each other instead of burying the hatchet.
The Left and the Congress also held a road show in the heart of Kolkata on Saturday in protest against hike in the price of petrol, diesel and LPG. However, the leaders did not target the Centre alone. “The state government has increased its tax on petrol by ₹27 since the TMC came to power. What is the point in decreasing it by just a rupee as a token gesture?” Communist Party of India (Marxists) legislator Sujan Chakraborty asked on Saturday.
To mount pressure on the BJP in Bengal, the Left parties have invited some leaders of the farmers’ stir in Punjab. They will camp in Bengal for three days and lead roadshows later this week.