'BJP Bharat chhodo': Mamata issues clarion call, will back anyone to oust Modi
It had to be Mamata Banerjee. Given her outspoken nature and even more outspoken criticism of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, it had to be the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader who would sound the bugle of war against them. And on Friday, at a huge rally at Esplanade in Kolkata, she did.
Addressing a gathering of party supporters – estimated at around 20 lakh – on 'Martyrs' Day', Banerjee announced the launch of a 'BJP Quit India' movement, and made it clear that the Trinamool Congress would back any united bid to topple the BJP regime in the 2019 General Elections.
“On 9 August 1942, the Quit India Movement was launched. This year, on 9 August, I give the call – BJP Bharat chhodo ('BJP Quit India'). I am throwing down a challenge – that Bengal will lead the way to oust the BJP government from the Centre,” Banerjee said.
“We are ready to support any party which is against the BJP. We are with Sonia ji (Congress president Sonia Gandhi), Nitish ji (Bihar CM Nitish Kumar), Arvind ji (Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal), Lalu ji (RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav), Naveen ji (Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik). There will be a grand alliance before the Lok Sabha polls (in 2019). We will oust BJP from power.
“Once we unite, PM Modi will get only 30% of the votes. I am taking this as a challenge. Already, 18 Opposition parties have come together for the Presidential polls. This unity will continue, and we are ready to lend support to any party which opposes the BJP.”
Banerjee also alleged that the BJP may try to call for early elections, and said the Opposition should be prepared for any eventuality.
“I have heard that the Parliamentary polls could be held next year, before they are scheduled. They (BJP) are trying to do so,” Banerjee said. “We should be prepared. If all Opposition parties come together, the BJP will be driven out of power.”
Expounding on the plan for her BJP Quit India movement, Banerjee said: “Starting from every corner of our state, we will spread the agitation for the ouster of the BJP, and then we'll spread it across the country. We will organise camps in all the blocks from 9-30 August, and our party leaders will help the workers carry out the programme.
“I am urging all the gram panchyat leaders not to get involved in internal feuds. Our first aim is to increase our seats in the Panchayat elections, so that the BJP does not get a single seat in Bengal. They (BJP) are responsible for carrying out false social media campaigns against us and creating communal tensions. I urge all party workers to keep a tab on such malicious campaigns by the BJP, and inform us immediately if they receive any such messages on social media platforms.”
On cross-voting in Prez poll
The Presidential election witnessed cross-voting from Opposition party MLAs in favour of NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in many states. But Banerjee was quick to exonerate her party of any blame, instead alleging a nexus between the CPI(M), the Congress and the BJP. According to her, while 10 Opposition votes in West Bengal were declared invalid, five that were supposed to go to Meira Kumar went to Kovind instead.
Undeterred, Banerjee issued a challenge to the Modi government for the upcoming Vice-Presidential polls. “In the Vice-Presidential elections, three more parties are switching sides, and will support the Opposition candidate (Gopalkrishna Gandhi).”
On scams and CBI-ED probes
Banerjee, who has been rattled by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate probes into the Saradha and Narada scams, alleged that “while BJP ruled states have witnessed scams to the tune of thousands of crores and the two Central agencies are keeping mum, the agencies are running after us on false allegations of our involvement in these scams”.
“In Madhya Pradesh, the VYAPAM scam took place, and nearly 50 people associated with it died under mysterious circumstances. Crores of rupees changed hands. In other states too, BJP leaders are involved in scams. What have the ED and CBI done in those cases?” she asked.
Mamata said "I am asking you ( BJP ), how many CPI- ( M) persons were arrested in this regard(Sarada scam) and I am challenging you that if our ministers and MP "s are being harassed this way we will file defamation suites worth Rs 1,000 crores . You can keep every ministers in lock up as a revenge as we are protesting against your policies , but we won’t stop. We will fight and oust you(BJP) from power. We are aware that BJP has fomented trouble in Darjeeling and we will stop such violence in Darjeeling soon "
According to the West Bengal CM, the BJP has 'fleeced the nation' in the name of GST and demonetisation, while the Saradha and Narada scams involve only Rs 1,500-2,000 crore, and even that “was started in the CPI(M) regime”.
On 21 July 1993 firing
Mamata also announced that the 21 July Commission, which was set up by the state government in 2011 to probe the 1993 firings, has submitted a report, and the government has decided to withdraw all charges against those who were falsely framed in the firing.
She also announced that her government would provide Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the martyrs. The state government is already giving Rs 1 lakh to around 65,000 victims.
“The report that was submitted by the Commission revealed that there was huge conspiracy behind the 21 July firing, and I am telling you that action will be taken against the accused. Although I have deep respect for past CMs Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, still, action will be taken against the CPI(M) leaders who were involved in the conspiracy,” Mamata maintained.
Opponents respond to Banerjee's bluster
The BJP, Banerjee's chief target, ridiculed her. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said: “Mamata should see how many ministers land up in jail before the next 21 July programme, instead of criticising Modi and talking about her plan to oust Modi from the Centre.”
CPI(M) leader Surjyakanta Mishra, on the other hand, accused Modi and Banerjee of walking down the same path and destroying Indian democracy.
“If Modi is strangling the media, Mamata is following the same path in Bengal,” he said.
“She did not talk about any solution for burning issues like the communal tension in Basirhat, and the Gorkhaland stir in Darjeeling,” he stated, accusing her of trying to divert attention from the current core issues in Bengal.
What Mishra's words also made it clear was that Mamata's dream of Opposition unity to topple Modi is still a distant dream. Only time will tell if so many parties can set their local differences aside for a common national goal.