West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI/file)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched the Trinamool Congress poll campaign in Assam on Friday and attacked Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP's "key person" in the northeast, claiming her government has proof that "he had received Rs 3 crore" from the owner of Sarada, a firm embroiled in ponzi scam.
The Trinamool Congress chief also claimed that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill are "two lollipops" being doled out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "fool" the people of Assam.
Addressing the election rally in Dhubri, Banerjee said the TMC has decided to contest in Assam after "40 lakh people were excluded" from the NRC.
"We will contest in nine Lok Sabha seats in Assam. We have made a start. Do not consider us weak," she said.
Hitting out at Narendra Modi, the TMC chief said the prime minister talks about chit funds in West Bengal, but it is the state government which has exposed and arrested those involved in the ponzi scam.
"Sarada's owner has said he had given Rs 3 crore in cash to Assam Minister Sarma and I have documentary evidence which I have brought with me," Banerjee said, waving a document at the rally.
"Has Modi taken action against him? Have you arrested him?" she asked.
The TMC chief handed over the paper to the party's Dhubri nominee Nurul Islam Choudhury, saying, "Our candidate will show it to you so that you can move court armed with this document."
Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is a key person for the BJP in the northeast, the party's national general secretary Ram Madhav had said last month. Sarma is also the convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the regional platform of the NDA.
Banerjee claimed that the NRC had left out the names of 40 lakh people and it was only the Trinamool Congress that stood beside these people irrespective of their religion.
"Within two days after the NRC list was announced, I sent a team of my party to Assam. We were not allowed to go out of the airport and harassed," she said, adding no political party supported the people who were left out, but "we were always with them".
"Not only Muslims, names of 22 lakh Hindus and also Gorkhas, Biharis, Tamils and people from Kerala and Rajasthan have been left out from the NRC. We are fighting to get their names included," Banerjee said.
She accused the BJP of plays politics of religion to polarise voters.
"Do you know why Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims are kept divided in Assam? It is because if you unite, the BJP will become a minority," the TMC chief claimed.
"Our people are being threatened. Five Bengalis were gunned down after the NRC while many people committed suicide as names of some members of their families have been excluded," she said.
Greeting the people of Assam for the forthcoming Rongali Bihu festival, she said people of Assam and Bengal enjoy a close relationship since time immemorial with "people from Assam being always welcomed in our state".
Banerjee asserted that her party does not play politics of religion, caste or class and "we cannot be bought by money, fear or threat. We are not scared of the expiry Prime Minister Modi babu".
"All those who have come to the country before March 25, 1971, are citizens of the country and have voting rights. What is the BJP saying now? They will bring the Act and make you a foreigner... you will be deprived of basic rights, including education, health, visiting your places of worship and even voting rights," she added.
Accusing Modi of "always fooling the people", she said, "Five years ago he called himself a 'chaiwala', but now he has forgotten how to make tea and become a 'chowkidar' to siphon off poor peoples' money and give it to the rich."
Striking a chord with the people of Assam, she said the West Bengal government is considering to take over singer Bhupen Hazarika's house in Kolkata and rename a road after the music maestro to keep his legacy alive.
"I and the people in West Bengal remember all his songs and we have offered to procure his home which is a private property," Banerjee added.