Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday targeted West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, saying when the nation is moving towards a single-window project clearance system to boost industrialisation, the state has introduced a similar mafia-run system.
He did not name Abhishek Banerjee but referred to him as bhaipo (nephew in Bengali). “Bengal, too, has a single window system. It is the bhaipo window. Nothing happens in Bengal without passing through this window. A lot of old industries have shut down because of this. The only industry running is the mafia industry,” he said at an election rally at Kharagpur. “Even children know who is behind the illegal mining of sand from the Subarnarekha river. When BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] comes to power, Bengal will have the rule of law. “
Modi alleged Mamata Banerjee has taken away the right to vote. “The world watched how she destroyed your rights during the 2018 panchayat election.” He said the police and administration must remember that nothing is bigger than democracy. “Do not be afraid. Bengal will see real progress. It needs a double engine government to push it forward. It can happen only when the BJP is in power at the state and the Centre.”
Abhishek Banerjee, who addressed a Trinamool Congress (TMC) rally at Daspur in the same district less than an hour later, hit back. “Since the Prime Minister is talking of development under a double engine government, he should explain how much progress Uttar Pradesh has seen. We have only seen minor girls being gang-raped and youths being murdered,” Abhishek Banerjee said.
“While announcing demonetisation [in 2016], Modi said he will seize all black money in 50 days. He failed to do it in five years. Now, he is talking of developing Bengal in five years. He will not achieve it in 500 years.”
He challenged Modi to speak in Bengali for two minutes without using a teleprompter. “I will speak in Hindi without any script or technology for one hour. Let us have this contest anytime, anywhere.” At his second rally at Sabang in West Midnapore district, Abhishek Banerjee threw the language challenge to all BJP national leaders. He added he is ready to go to any BJP-ruled state to face it.
Earlier in his 25-minute speech, Modi said voters have given opportunities to many parties over the last 70 years. “Give us five years. Bless us just once. Give us the opportunity to serve you. We will make up for everything that went wrong in 70 years. We will take Bengal to a new path of development,” he said.
“…the BJP is indebted to West Bengal. BJP was born out of the Jan Sangh, which was founded by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. The values and cultures of Asutosh Mookerjee and his son, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, are in the DNA of the BJP.”
He told the gathering that they depended on Mamata Banerjee, but she betrayed their trust and shattered dreams. “Now you see her making new promises,” said Modi. “Didi [Mamata Banerjee], people give you 10 years. You gave them 10 years of misrule and corruption. In Bengal, the cut money system must end.” He said last night, WhatsApp, Instagram etc went down for 50-55 minutes. “People got worried. In Bengal, development stopped 50-55 years ago. Didi’s track record only shows appeasement of some and deprivation of others.”
Modi called TMC the school of cruelty. “The syllabus includes syndicate and cut money. People are trained in anarchy. Our country has a new national education policy after 35 years. The entire nation is praising it. It wants to change the education system to suit the demands of the 21st century. It stresses on local language even in technical education, medicine and management. But Didi is opposed to this as well. She is not bothered about the future of youths.”
Referring to the TMC’s slogan, khela hobe (let’s play) Modi said, “West Bengal is saying the game will end now and development will begin. People are asking what happened to the money the Centre sent to Bengal. Didi, do not give credit to Modi if you do not want to but why deprive the poor?”
The BJP has fielded Bengali actor Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay from the Kharagpur Sadar seat. Dilip Ghosh, the party’s state president, won the seat in 2016. The BJP lost it in the 2019 by-election after Ghosh was elected as a Parliament member.
Polls in West Bengal are being held in eight phases between March 27 and April 29.