BJP national president Amit Shah kickstarted the party's 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign in West Bengal's Malda town on Tuesday with a speech that sharply attacked the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government over corruption charges, lack of jobs, minority appeasement and the alleged loss of Bengal's culture. He also asked the crowd to not just change the Bengal government but "uproot" it entirely, the way Ravaan's rule was removed from Lanka.
Shah's helicopter finally landed at Malda on Tuesday afternoon, after controversy with the Bengal government over permission, which had initially been denied. In a speech nearly 45 minutes long, Shah touched upon nearly all of the BJP's customary rallying points against the Mamata Banerjee government, including the chief minister's non-acceptance of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Centre's Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme, and the alleged breakdown of law and culture in the state under the present rule.
Asking people to lift their arms and ring out praises to Bharat Mata, Shah began with a rousing declaration that he had come to Malda to "start the BJP's election journey". "India's future will be decided in 2019, but more than India's, it is Bengal's future that will be decided. Will the 'killing' Trinamool sarkar, which did not let us take a rally out in the state, be allowed to stay in Bengal?" he asked the crowd.
Shah invoked Bengal figures such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Surya Sen, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, Rammohan Roy, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore and said the BJP will return Bengal's culture to it. "You have lived under a government of thieves that can only do business in liquor," he said.
Shah said the rule under the TMC, which was brought in power after the Left was defeated in 2011, was so disappointing that people had begun saying, "Communists were better."
He added that the Bengal government was "refusing to let people in the state celebrate Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja" and later went on to elaborate, saying, "Where will we go to immerse our Durga idols? Pakistan? Saraswati gives us culture. Will we ever know what sacrifice means if we do not do the Saraswati Puja on Basant Panchami?" Shah was ostensibly referring to the Mamata government's dictum that Durga idols could not be immersed on the day of Muharram.
Shah also highlighted Bengal's drop in agricultural output ("from 27 percent to 3.3 percent"), TMC's alleged rigging of the Bengal panchayat election ("this time we will have central military forces and officials of the Election Commission standing guard") and the rise of syndicate tax extortionists in the state. When it came to the latter, Shah said, "Even the TMC's own MP had to sit in a dharna to get his own house built without intervention of the syndicate folk." However, Shah then named "Mukul da" as the TMC MP before he was corrected by a BJP leader, who told him that it was actually Saugata Roy.
Mukul Roy, once a TMC leader, has recently joined the BJP. It could not be verified whether Saugata Roy did stage a dharna.
Shah said the Bengal government had not let the BJP's proposed Rath Yatra to take place because Mamata Banerjee was "scared". "She knew that had the BJP been allowed to take out the Rath Yatra, it would have been her government's final yatra (funeral journey)," he said.
In a rebuttal to Mamata's speech in an Opposition show of 23 parties at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata, Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought 129 schemes in the past four years. He then named 13 schemes and said the Bengal chief minister had barred most of them from reaching the people. "I have to ask how so many political parties at Brigade Parade can be present at a gathering without once invoking "Bharat Mata" or saying "Vande Mataram"? They only had one name on their lips: "Modi," Shah said.
Claiming that the Modi government had granted Rs 3,95,406 crore in the past four years, Shah said Mamata finds this amount "less" because she likes "bribes". "Let the lotus flower in Bengal. Help us restore democracy in the state," he said.
He added that the Mamata government was sure to register a case against him (based on what he had said at the rally) but said, "I welcome cases. I am young, your charges are like blessings to me."
Updated Date: Jan 22, 2019 16:33:54 IST