Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has triggerd a huge “outsider versus insider” debate in the state ahead of the assembly election, today offered a clarification, saying there is no discrimination in the state between Bengalis and non-Bengalis while reiterating her stand on the controversial law on the National Register of Citizens. But when it comes to ruling Bengal, the matter is different, she indicated to her intended target — the BJP, which has set its heart on adding the state to its bag in the state polls due in April.
“See what is happening in Assam and Tripura. In the name of NRC they scared everyone. There is an NPR (National Population Register). Every state is doing it, but we haven’t done it. We won’t let them do it,” she said..
There is no difference between Bengalis and non-Bengalis, the Chief Minister said. “We take everyone along whether its Biharis or UP or Rajasthan or Terai or Dooars. We take everyone along. But we must remember one thing. Gujarat will never reign over Bengal. People who live in Bengal will reign over Bengal,” the Chief Minister said at a rally in north Bengal’s Alipurduar.
The Chief Minister’s words about the neighbouring states comes as the BJP continues its efforts to prove that it is no stranger to Bengali culture. On Monday, Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman started her budget speech with a quote from Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, considered the cultural core of Bengal.
Over the last months, the BJP has also extensively focused on the cultural icons of the state — including Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose birth anniversary on January 23 was marked as “Parakram Diwas”, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being in Kolkata for the occasion.
But the BJP leaders have also made several faux pas when it comes to these icons like getting Tagore’s birthplace wrong. The TMC has said Jai Shri Ram slogans by BJP supporters at an event to mark Netaji’s birthday was an insult to Netaji and his legacy.
“We will remove the BJP from Bengal and India. We don’t get scared,” Mamata Banerjee said today, switching to the other issue that is plaguing her party – a string of defections by leaders big and small, who have walked over to the rival party.
“Some people are running away in fear. Tell those who are running away — ‘You will know what the BJP is. They will set your tail on fire and create a Lanka kaand’,” she said, underscoring her stance that defectors are cowards who are no loss to her party.
“Trinamool Congress tickets are not sold for money. TMC MP & MLAs can’t be bought with money,” she added, continuing to berate her aides-turned enemies.
Hitting out directly at the Prime Minister, she added, “When migrants workers didn’t have money for tickets, we bought tickets for them. And look at Modiji. Some people from Trinamool who are corrupt are being flown in private jets by Modiji. And migrants had to travel on foot. This is your politics”.
On Saturday, former Trinamool leaders like Rajib Banerjee, Baishali Dalmiya and others flew in a chartered plane to New Delhi to meet Amit Shah and join the BJP. The Chief Minister today said Rajib Banerjee’s actions as Forest Minister in her government will be investigated.