Need union of states to take on Centre: Mamata
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that in a federal structure, there should be a union of state governments to take on the Centre if any state is harassed.
Banerjee, whose third term in office began on a confrontational note with the Centre, was speaking after meeting delegation of farmer leaders led by Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Rakesh Tikait at the state secretariat, Nabanna. In it, Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress supremo, extended her support to the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three controversial farm laws.
“We are ready to support the ongoing farmers’ protest till the time the demands are met. They (farmer leaders) have requested me to speak to other chief ministers (of non-BJP ruled states) so that together we could hold a virtual conference with the farmers. I will surely speak to chief ministers so that we can send a letter unanimously. This will give them some strength before the Lok Sabha polls,” Banerjee said .“
She urged every chief minister of states not ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to stick together. “I would urge every opposition party to unite (against the BJP) to save democracy,” Banerjee said.
The chief minister lashed out at the Centre for its vaccination policy and the spiralling fuel prices and said in a federal structure, it isn’t right for the Centre to try to bulldoze the states.
“The Prime Minister need not take credit for giving free vaccines. This is not BJP’s money. It is people’s money. Even the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to give more importance to the states and the federal structure. But still the Centre hasn’t come up with any guidelines,” she said.
The Bengal CM also renewed her demand that the Centre should withdraw the three farm bills — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
In a joint press conference held after the meeting, Tikait requested Banerjee to extend her support to the farmers’ protest.
“We have urged Mamata Banerjee to turn West Bengal into a model state where farmers get the maximum benefits by doing away with the middlemen who siphon off all the profits. Other states may follow the model. The farmers have been hit during the pandemic,” Tikait said.
The farm agitation has been on for over six months now.
TMC had recently announced that it would expand its footprint beyond West Bengal. Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s general secretary and the CM’s nephew, had said on Monday that the party would come up with a national plan within a month.
The BJP-led central government has defended the new farm laws and held 11 rounds of talks, the last being on January 22, with the unions to end the farmers’ protest over the laws.