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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

‘If you take panga...’: Mamata Banerjee riposte to PM Modi’s attack

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her home turf, she returned the favour in the same measure saying she becomes better if someone picks up a fight with her.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2019 19:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(PTI file photo)

Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her home turf, she returned the favour in the same measure saying she becomes better if someone picks up a fight with her.

“If you take ‘panga’ (fight) with me, I will become ‘changa’ (better),” news agency ANI quoted Banerjee as saying in Kolkata. She also used “chaiwala” reference, often made by Modi to reflect his humble economic background, to corner the prime minister on the Rafale deal.

“During the election, he (PM Modi) becomes ‘Chaiwala’. He becomes ‘Rafalewalla’ once election is over,” Banerjee said.

Friday saw return of fresh Rafale charge against the Narendra Modi government following a report in The Hindu that cited a note written by defence ministry officials in November 2015 objecting to “parallel parleys” by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) at a time when the Indian Negotiating Team was in talks with the French team.

Also read | ‘Didi eyes Delhi, has left Bengal to middlemen’: PM Modi hits out at Mamata Banerjee

The report gave a shot in the arm to opposition. Congress president Rahul Gandhi mounted his attack on Modi alleging that the defence ministry note makes it “crystal clear” that the prime minister bypassed the due process for finalising the Rafale deal. He repeated his charge that “chowkidar chor hai (the watchman is a thief).”

The government rejected the allegations with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman giving a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha where she said that raising the Rafale issue again on the basis of a media report is like “flogging a dead horse.”

On Thursday in Parliament, PM Modi had responded to the Rafale charge leveled by the opposition with a counter-allegation that the Congress doesn’t want to see a strong Indian Air Force.

In Bengal, Banerjee renewed the Rafale charge against PM Modi while targeting his government over a range of issues. “He is a master of Rafale. He is a master of demonetisation... He is a master of corruption. He is matter of arrogance,” she said.

Earlier in the day, PM Modi launched scathing attack on Banerjee alleging that “middlemen and syndicate” run the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal while the chief minister eyes the seat of power in New Delhi. PM Modi was in Jalpaiguri in North Bengal, where he inaugurated a bench of the Calcutta High Court.

Banerjee took a potshot at PM Modi for allegedly not inviting anyone from the TMC government or the high court. “Nobody from Calcutta High Court was present. All infrastructure was paid for by us. The land is ours. The circuit bench is of the high court but nobody from them was there. It means the bride-bridegroom wasn’t there but the band party was there.”

Also read | ‘Over reaction’, wrote Manohar Parrikar on ministry note on PMO role in Rafale deal

Dismissing PM Modi’s charge that Banerjee is afraid of electoral loss in West Bengal during upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Trinamool Congress chief said, “He is afraid because we are working together. I was never scared. I have always fought my way out.”

The prime minister had said that Banerjee was nervous and acting in desperation fearing that the BJP would outperform her TMC in the parliamentary polls, likely to be held in April-May this year. PM Modi said the TMC has lost mass support in Bengal.

Banerjee responded to PM Modi throwing a question as to “why everybody, from RBI to CBI, is saying bye-bye to him (PM)?”

Acrimony between the Centre and the TMC government of West Bengal has escalated since Banerjee held a ‘United India’ rally in January in Kolkata giving a call to “vote the Modi government out” in the Lok Sabha polls. The rally was attended by leaders from 23 opposition parties including the Congress.

The tussle took an unexpected turn on Sunday when Banerjee staged a sit-in protesting action by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with chit fund scam cases. Banerjee called it a case of “political vendetta”.

PM Modi, at his Jalpaiguri rally, slammed Banerjee saying the dharna was an act in protection of “those who looted money” of the poor.

Also read | ‘In black and white’: Rahul Gandhi cites MoD document on PM role in Rafale

First Published: Feb 08, 2019 19:51 IST