A war of words erupted between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mamata Banerjee during campaigning in north Bengal on the last Sunday before the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in Bengal on April 11At back-to-back high-voltage rallies in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts in the afternoon, the two rivals traded charges over a range of issues. “Mamata Banerjee has made alliance with people who want two prime ministers, one for Delhi and one for Jammu and Kashmir,” Modi said at his first election rally in Cooch Behar district. “Bengal’s Didi is losing political ground. The invective being showered on me, her anger with EC expose her fear,” he said. Referring to the Saradha scam, Nararda sting videos and Rose Valley chit fund scam, Modi said, “You all know who benefitted from these scams. I promise to expose all of that,” Modi, who held the first rally of the day, said in Cooch Behar. Watch: On Mamata’s turf, PM Modi says ‘Speed-breaker didi is scared’An hour later, Banerjee returned the compliment at her rally at Moynaguri in Jalpaiguri district. “I have seen many prime ministers. But I have never seen a man of such low taste as we see now. Today you (Modi) referred to Narada and Saradha scams and you said this with one of the main accused in both scams sitting on the same dais,” Banerjee said in an obvious reference to former Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy who is now convenor of BJP’s West Bengal election cell. Roy addressed the rally before Modi in the morning. Without naming Banerjee’s nephew and political heir Abhisek Banerjee, the Prime Minister said, “People of Bengal had put their faith in Didi. But she shattered it. The aunt-nephew duo has handed over Bengal to extortionists. She has blocked all development. Centre allotted huge funds for central schemes such as Ayusmaan Bharat but Didi has blocked everything.” Modi had dubbed Banerjee “speed breaker Didi” at his rallies in Bengal on April 3. He repeated it on Sunday. The Trinamool Congress chief, in turn, accused Modi of weakening all government institutions.“You cannot get away by telling lies. All government institutions, starting from Reserve Bank of India to Central Bureau of Investigation are failing. In 2014 people were told that the chaiwala (tea seller) had arrived. The tea seller has disappeared and we now have the chowkidar. People can see through these tricks,” said Banerjee. “In Tripura, the erstwhile communist government resorted to misrule. People were disgusted. But while people of Bengal put their faith in Didi, voters in Tripura selected us. We changed Tripura. But in Bengal Didi adopted a shortcut and followed the same path shown by the Marxists she defeated. She has set up a dangerous model. Nobody in India thought that after the communists misrule would continue in Bengal,” Modi said. “I went to Assam a few days ago. People told me that they don’t enjoy any benefit. They said they have to come to Bengal for medical treatment. Same is the picture in Tripura,” alleged Banerjee. Claiming that north Bengal districts had a huge potential as far as tourism industry was concerned, Modi said, “Infiltration is one of the biggest problems in this region. We want to amend citizenship laws and introduce strict laws against human trafficking but Didi is opposed to both. We will rescue Bengal from TMC terror. Your vote will make me strong. ”“It is necessary to expose Didi. Did she ever tell you why recommendations of the 7th pay commission for government employees have not been implemented in Bengal, why millions of educated youths don’t have jobs or why tea garden workers don’t get their benefits?” Modi asked.Banerjee insisted that the citizenship bill which lapsed in February was draconian and reminded Modi of broken promises.“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a draconian measure. It will make people aliens in their homeland. We will never allow its implementation. And, we will never allow implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Bengal. I have told people in Assam that if they are driven out because of NRC we will welcome them in Bengal,” said Banerjee. “Modi babu you promised two crore jobs but during your tenure unemployment is highest in 47 years. This is the election to change the government in Delhi and Bengal will take the lead in that exercise. Before the last election you promised to takeover seven closed tea gardens in north Bengal. Not even one has been taken over. In Alipurduar, you have fielded John Barla who was involved in rioting. Did you ever visit north Bengal in five years?” said Banerjee. On April 3, Banerjee dubbed Modi “expiry PM” to drive home the point that his present tenure has come to an end. She reiterated it on Sunday. Accusing BJP of giving Rs 1000 to every unemployed youth attending the party’s rallies in Bengal, Banerjee said, “You are spending crores of rupees on campaign. Will you take care of these youths once polls are over?” West Bengal is crucial in the BJP’s plan for the Lok Sabha election and the party is eyeing 22 seats of the state’s 42 seats. The BJP, which currently holds two seats in Bengal, is banking on Trinamool Congress leaders who switched sides over the past one year.Voting in West Bengal will take place in all the seven phases from April 11 to May 19 and results will be declared on May 23.
First Published:
Apr 07, 2019 16:48 IST