Someone else will become Bengal chief minister if I don’t win: Mamata Banerjee at Bhabanipur bypoll campaign
Kolkata: Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said someone else from her party would become the chief minister of West Bengal if she did not win the Bhabanipur assembly bypoll, scheduled on September 30.
“Cast your vote even if it rains. I will suffer if I don’t get even one vote. Don’t be complacent and assume that my victory is ensured. Please don’t do that. If you want to see me as chief minister you must vote for me. Every vote is crucial. If I do not win, someone else will become the chief minister since we are in the majority,” Banerjee said at her first election meeting in Ekbalpore area, in South Kolkata, where members of the Muslim community comprise a sizeable chunk of voters.
Speaking in Hindi and Bengali while using odd Urdu words, Banerjee said, “I contested from Nandigram but there was a conspiracy to defeat me. The matter is being heard by court. It is destiny that I am contesting from Bhabanipur again to become chief minister.”
For the record, TMC trailed the BJP at two Hindu-dominated civic wards in Bhabanipur in the last two polls that Banerjee won. Muslims comprise around 20% of total voters in the constituency.
“Voters of Kidderpore (of which Ekbalpore is a part) supported me six times when I contested and won the Kolkata South Lok Sabha seat. I am sure you will support me again,” said Banerjee.
“The BJP is a party of liars. They allege that Bengalis are not allowed to perform Durga Puja and Kali Puja. People from all communities freely practise their religions here whereas in Tripura the government has imposed Section 144 (CrPC). How can Tripura residents perform Durga Puja?” said Banerjee.
She was referring to the prohibitory orders the Biplab Deb government has imposed in Tripura till November, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee could not hold the party’s first rally in Agartala because of the restrictions.
Before the March-April assembly polls, Banerjee surprised everyone when she announced in East Midnapore’s Nandigram that she would contest the local seat against her protégé-turned-adversary, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suvendu Adhikari, and not from Bhabanipur, her old seat. In the polls held on April 1, Adhikari defeated her by around 1,500 votes and subsequently became the leader of the opposition in the state assembly.
Reacting to Banerjee’s appeal to voters, Adhikari said, “The person responsible for this bypoll is Suvendu Adhikari. A defeated chief minister is making desperate efforts. She did not learn from the Nandigram lesson.”
Bhabanipur witnessed a flurry of activities on Wednesday as Banerjee, Adhikari, Union petroleum minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta and Bengal BJP’s new president Sukanta Majumdar campaigned in different parts of the constituency.
Majumdar entered into an altercation with the police when he and the BJP workers were stopped from visiting homes of voters at Harish Chatterjee Street, where the chief minister lives. The area is marked as a high security zone.
Akash Magharia, deputy commissioner of police (south), who stopped the BJP team, said, “There are restrictions in this zone. Moreover, we could not allow so many people in view of the pandemic. Nobody could show vaccination certificates.”
The highest concentration of Kolkata’s Sikh community is based in Bhabanipur, where Puri on Tuesday offered prayers at Gurdwara Sant Kutiya Ji and also visited the ancestral homes of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose and Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee before meeting voters at several locations.
Banerjee took a dig at Puri saying he should tell voters why price of cooking gas has touched the ceiling.
In a rebuttal, Puri said, “The chief minister should tell people why the state is against imposition of goods and services tax (GST) on petrol and diesel. A major component of fuel prices in Bengal comprises state tax. She should think before making this a political issue.”
While addressing residents of Lord Sinha Road, where non-Bengali Hindu voters and members of the business community are in the majority, Adhikari said, “What has this government given in five months? The defeated chief minister only offers doles and subsidies. Bengal’s debt burden is hovering around ₹5 lakh crore. Never expect jobs and industries here.”