West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “seasonal bird” for coming to north Bengal only ahead of elections and dismissed his claim that she was petrified, saying it was he who was scared of her.
“Babus of Delhi set a fire in the hills and we defused it. You (Modi) had not come to Darjeeling during the days of unrest. Where were the BJP leaders when there were disturbances in the hills?” Banerjee said in a strongly-worded speech at a rally at Churabhandar in Jalpaiguri district, hours after Modi spoke at an election meeting in Cooch Behar.
Addressing a rally later in the day at Falakata in Alipurduar district, she said BJP leaders “are seasonal birds who come here only during elections and run away after polls” while Trinamool Congress leaders and activists have been with the people 365 days a year. For the major part of 2017, the hills in Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong witnessed violence and political turmoil over the revived demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland to be carved out of the northern West Bengal hills.
The entire region came to a standstill for 104 days following the longest-ever shutdown called by the pro-Gorkhaland outfits. Responding to Modi’s remarks that she was petrified at fearing defeat, Banerjee said: “They are saying Didi and Trinamool Congress are scared. I am not scared of any dacoit like you and it is not so easy to frighten Didi. Didi was beaten up from head to toe and I have injuries all over my body. I had fought in front of bullets and guns.
“When rest of India remained silent (during the note ban and the NRC), we raised our voice. That is why Modi babu is afraid of us and he knows he will be defeated,” she said. In Churabhandar, Banerjee also asked why the people of Bengal would vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as “Modi has done nothing for Bengal” and “has not even cleared the proposal for changing the name of the state to Bangla”.
She attacked the BJP for nominating “tainted” candidates such as John Barla from Alipurduar, whom she accused of indulging in “violence and efforts to create division between hills and plains”. Banerjee also alleged that the saffron party was offering cash to the youth and the people so that they come and join its meetings and rallies. “They are threatening people and fighting the elections with money power,” she said.
Responding to the Prime Minister describing the Trinamool Congress as “Saradha-Narada” party, Banerjee said: “You had linked the Trinamool with the Saradha chit fund scam in 2014 and with the Narada sting case in 2016. But during today’s rally in Cooch Behar, you shared the stage with persons who were accused in both the cases and are now controlling your meetings.”
“Sarada-Narada-Hawala leaders have now become BJP’s leaders,” she said at Falakata. Incidentally, BJP leader Mukul Roy, who had jumped ship from the Trinamool to the BJP and was questioned by the central investigation agencies in these cases, was present at Modi’s rally in Cooch Behar earlier in the day. Amid the controversy over removing senior police officers in the state by the Election Commission, Banerjee claimed that the saffron party will not win the Lok Sabha elections by transferring officers.
“Why the Cabinet Secretary and your Secretary won’t be removed ahead of the elections? There were many allegations against you (Modi),” she said. Taunting Modi for calling himself a “chowkidar” (watchman), Banerjee wondered whether the Prime Minister knew that many “chowkidars” at the ATMs do not even get their salary regularly. “We want real chowkidar, not the fraud. I will say chowkidar jhoota hain. Chowkidar lootera hain. Chowkidar did note-ban and is corrupt,” she said at the Falakata rally.
The Correspondent Bureau with inputs from agencies