Maoist shadow over Didi campaign
'Use the ballot to answer the CPM bullets' is the Trinamool chief's rallying cry as she takes on Chhatradhar Mahato. Ravik Bhattacharya and Koushik Dutta report.Updated: May 07, 2011 16:40 IST
Use the ballot to give a fitting reply to the Netai bullets of January 7, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee urged at an election rally in Jhargram on Friday.
“The CPI(M) has killed people in Netai in the same way it did in Nandigram. Reply to their bullets with the ballot,” Banerjee said, addressing the constituency that is offering the most fascinating fight in the last stage of the six-phase Bengal polls.
While she directed most of her energy and rhetoric at the CPI(M), the Trinamool chief also argued her case against former spokesman of the Maoist-backed Peoples’ Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) Chhatradhar Mahato, who is contesting as an Independent from the seat.
Although she refrained from mentioning Mahato by name, Banerjee said, “Please don’t vote for the candidate who will indirectly help the CPI(M).”
Although the CPI(M) and Trinamool have already nominated their candidates for Jhargram, both parties have been overshadowed by Mahato, the most prominent face in the fight for tribal rights in West Bengal and the only candidate in the country fighting the polls with charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act slapped against him.
On Tuesday, Banerjee’s main political rival, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, addressed a rally in Jhargram. “We have to defeat the Maoists, the PCAPA and the Trinamool as well. Maoists have formed a group called the PCAPA. What peoples’ committee is it? It’s a killers’ committee,” the chief minister said, adding, “The Trinamool’s victory means a Maoist victory.”
“Those who allege that we have an understanding with them (the Maoists) are lying. We have no relationship with them. The allies of the CPI(M) are contesting against us. Giving them even one vote will strengthen their hand,” Banerjee said, refuting Bhattacharjee’s allegations.
Mahato, currently in Midnapore central jail, held a press conference on the jail premises on Friday where he lamented the association between Banerjee and the Congress.
“It’s unfortunate that the Trinamool Congress has allied itself with the forces (the Congress) that have helped the CPI(M) remain in power for so long,” Mahato said, while explaining his candidature.
He justified his stand of contesting the elections in Jhargram constituency from behind bars, saying that the Trinamool chief had gained ground in the region only with the PCAPA’s support. Interestingly, the statements came just minutes after Banerjee’s public meeting in Jhargram.
“She’s betrayed the cause of the people of Jangalmahal,” Mahato said, justifying his decision to contest against the Trinamool candidate in Jhargram. This is the first time that Mahato has spoken out against the Trinamool chief since filing his nomination.
“Now, she’s accusing me of strengthening the hands of the CPI(M). What’s she doing?” Mahato asked, minutes after Banerjee accused him of weakening the Trinamool’s cause by standing against the party’s Jhargram candidate and asked the people not to give him a single vote.
Mahato said the Trinamool chief had betrayed the aspirations of people of Jangalmahal. “Once, she was with us. We gave her all our support here. Has she forgotten that? How can she say all this now?” Mahato said.