Launching a set of scathing attacks on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that her party, the Trinamool Congress, was readying excuses anticipating defeat in the ongoing Assembly polls.
Infact, the ruling party had scored a self-goal when it appealed to the minority community for block voting, while corruption under ‘bhaipo service tax’ (referring to alleged extortion rackets and a jibe at Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek) was rampant.
With two rallies in the State, Modi played two different cards. In North Bengal’s Cooch Behar, he slammed the alleged minority appeasement politics of Banerjee, while in Howrah, he chose to play the development and industry card.
In both places, he raised the pitch against the alleged “extortion culture” of the Trinamool workers, and made specific jibes at Abhishek Banerjee without naming him.
PM Modi referred to recent speeches of the Chief Minister where she appealed for ‘block voting’. Had the BJP, Modi or any other party or leader canvassed Hindu votes in a similar fashion, then it would have been given a communal colour.
“Didi even Muslims are not with you. You have lost that vote bank and now you are urging them to block vote for your party. Imagine, if I had done the same for Hindu votes, then it would have been given a communal tone and you would have brought the roof down, gone to the Election Commision of India and et all,” he said addressing a public rally in Cooch Behar.
Banerjee had, in a recent rally, appealed to the minority community to not divide votes and “fall for the BJP’s trap”.
“What greater proof would you need that Trinamool is losing elections than the antics of the Chief Minister,” said Modi, adding that the CM’s antics on polling day in Nandigram (where she was held up at a booth for nearly two hours alleging rigging) “was more proof of her being on shaky ground”.
Later in the day, while speaking in Howrah, once known as Sheffield of the East because of its now closed factories, the Prime Minister spoke on the need for industry and how the city was a shadow of the past.
Despite increased demand in the industrial sector, Bengal MSMEs have been badly hit because of the extortion rackets and bhaipo tax.
“Development eluded the region and extortion forced closure of many medium and small units. Bhaipo tax is a reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, several incidents of violence were reported in across three constituencies – Hooghly, South 24-Parganas and Howrah.
The Trinamool candidate in Arambag, Sujata Mondal Khan (wife of BJP MP Saumitra Khan) was attacked, allegedly by BJP workers, during a visit to one of the booths in her constituency. The party has filed a formal complaint with the Election Commission of India (ECI).
This apart, there were reports of clashes between Trinamool and ISF supporters in parts of South 24 Parganas; Trinamool and BJP workers clashed in different places of Hooghly and Howrah.
This apart, Trinamool alleged that its booth level agents were not allowed entry in some booths or were “beaten up and thrown out”.
Other complaints made across by all parties include voter intimidation, booth capturing and so on. The Trinamool has specifically levelled charges of intimidation against central forces.
The Election Commission has also suspended a sectoral polling officers after EVM and VVPAT slips were found from the home of a Trinamool leader.